I’m well into the second week of my course here at Keele
It came as a bit of shock when I found out that I was the only full time student in this year’s intake, and that there were only 2 more part-time newcomers. Add that to the two second year part-timers and you get the grand total of five students in the cohort!
Not too many for the three faculty to cope with!
As a full time student I have to do two courses each semester (part timers have to do one). One is mandatory – The Writer as Critic, The Critic as Writer. ‘The module explores the relationship between writing and different modes of literary and cultural criticism.’ The module is taught as a two hour seminar. So far we’ve read and discussed two pieces of work, the first a critique of Liz Jones’ autobiography by Jenni Diski; the second a brilliant piece of writing called Unpacking My Library by Walter Benjamin. Well worth a read, particularly if you’re a book collector (or, indeed, a collector of anything). By 21 November we are supposed to be sufficiently advanced to be able to hand in a 2000 word review of ‘a literary work, theatrical production or film, showing an understanding of the trajectory of the writer involved.’ We shall see!
The second course is an ‘option’ but as it’s the only option on offer this semester, not an ‘option’ at all for me as a full time student. It’s called Writing Fiction and ‘is taught through a series of intensive workshops.’ It’s also taught as a two hour seminar. In the first hour we discuss a book or short story we have had to read (The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes in week 1 and two short stories in week 2). Each week we also have to submit a 1000-3000 word piece of writing. It does NOT have to be a complete story, but does have to show some evidence of shape and structure. This is submitted in advance. Now comes the terrifying bit. In the second hour of the workshop the two other students and the two faculty each give ‘constructive criticism’ on one students’ piece. the student under the microscope is not allowed to interject or argue! With this module there are two pieces of work to be submitted for assessment, bot in January. I’ll keep you posted as the time draws near
Both seminars are on Mondays, one from 2.30-4.30, the other form 5-7. Doesn’t sound like much of a workload does it? Well. try writing a piece yourself and send it to me for ‘constructive criticism’! You quickly get to the stage of agonising over every paragraph, line, even word. The faculty are looking for cliches, wasted words (too many adjectives and adverbs,) jarring writing etc. but most of all they look for what they call the writer’s ‘voice’. What is it trying to say and is it succeeding? Yes I agree, I don’t fully understand it either!
Oh well, time to get down to writing this week’s piece!