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Writing Workshops

Writing Through the Strange and Uncanny with JD Scott


8 Sessions

In stock

Once a week Mondays, 6:30 pm EDT - 8:30 pm EDT June 3 to July 22, 2024

Online via Zoom

Freud once used the term “uncanny” to describe the psychological effect on a reader when fiction makes them feel eerie, unsettled, or pulled by a strange sense of déjà vu. In her essay on the forms of the fairy tale, Kate Bernheimer wrote that fairytale storytelling can be broken down into qualities such as “flatness” (like one-dimensional characters) and “intuitive logic” (a type of dream logic). Todorov said that stories with supernatural elements that are accepted as part of the natural world by the characters in it are part of “the marvelous.”

Whether we are talking about the speculative or fantastic, uncanny or fabulistic, each of these terms considers the rules behind how we build our story worlds. While these techniques have been harnessed to their fullest by genre writers, there is something that each of us can learn from writing that breaks the contract between the real and unreal. What is “flatness” if not the literary minimalism of Raymond Carver or Amy Hempel? What is the “uncanny” if not the red-room of Jane Eyre or all the hauntings of Beloved?

In this class, we will follow generative prompts to write new pieces of short fiction based on concepts like the uncanny and fairy tales as forms—as well as look at examples from writers such as Lesley Nneka Arimah, Kelly Link, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Karen Russell, Julio Cortázar, Octavio Paz, and others.

Course Outline

Each two-hour session will be broken down as follows:

  • Part I:
    • 10-minute session of sharing writing from previous week
    • 30-minute discussion of readings
    • 15 minutes of post-discussion generation of new writing
    • 5-minute bio break
  • Part II:
    • 1-hour workshop of writing generated from from take-home writing prompts (provided at the end of every class session for the following class)
  • Session I: Introduction to the Strange and Uncanny: A lecture through the various categories of the fantastic, speculative, unreal, and beyond
  • Session II: Kate Bernheimer—Fairy Tale as Form: Learning the four building blocks of the fairy tale
  • Session III: Aimee Bender and Julio Cortázar—Metamorphosis: A study on literal and metaphorical transformation
  • Session IV: Octavio Paz—Surrealism: Rebelling against convention and rationality
  • Session V: Kelly Link—Image and Repetition: Using rhythm and emphasis to disquiet your reader
  • Session VI: Lesley Nneka Arimah—Estranging the Ordinary: Learning how to make our familiar cultural milestones and rites of passage unfamiliar
  • Session VII: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Paul Tremblay—Perspective Can Unsettle: How writing from two different perspectives can built dread
  • Session VIII: Karen Russell—Ambiguity and Fracture: Learning that tightrope walk between making the reader doubt and making the reader believe
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Led by

  • headshot400 - JD Scott

    JD Scott

    JD Scott

    JD Scott is the author of the story collection Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day (&NOW Books, 2020) and the poetry collection Mask for Mask (New Rivers Press, 2021). Scott’s writing has appeared in Best Experimental Writing, Best New Poets, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. Scott’s accolades include being awarded a Lambda Emerging LGBTQ Voices fellowship, attending the Poetry Foundation’s inaugural Poetry Incubator, and being awarded residencies at the Millay Colony, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and MASS MoCA.