Fall 2024

Problematic: Ethical Dilemmas on the Page

Listed in: English, as ENGL-329


Judith E. Frank (Section 01)
Kirun Kapur (Section 01)


This course will examine a variety of ethical dilemmas writers face, and face with particular intensity in our current moment. We will consider identity/representation, appropriation, representing violence and self-harm, standards of “truth” in memoir, cancellation, and the ethics and politics of the creative writing workshop. We will ask how literary “taste” might be connected to class, race and power, consider what a “problematic” text might be and how writers should respond, and explore a writer’s ethical obligations when writing about family or depicting the suffering of others.  Students will write both critical analyses of assigned texts and devise their own creative projects. Class time will be divided between discussion and workshop. Readings may include Ward and Shawl’s Writing the Other, Matthew Salesse’s Craft in the Real World, R.F. Kuang’s Yellowface, Paisley Rekdal’s Appropriate: A Provocation, John D’Agata’s The Lifespan of a Fact, and stories and essays by Toi Derricote, Alexander Chee, Ling Ma, Susan Sontag, Jess Row and Zadie Smith.

Limited to 25 students. Preference given to students who have taken a creative writing workshop. Instructor permission required. Fall semester. Professor Frank and Lecturer Kapur.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to students who have taken a creative writing workshop; students can write to instructor about their interest in the course

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work and openness to participate in challenging philosophical and political discussions.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024