2 Literary University of Iowa MOOC’s 4U

Like many institutions of higher learning, the University of Iowa (my alma mater) has begun offering Massive Open Online Courses. Given that Iowa is home to both the Iowa Writers Workshop and the International Writing Program it’s not surprising that the initial offerings play to those strengths.

The first course, which began in mid-February but is still open for registration, features an in-depth look at Whitman’s A Song of Myself. If you’re interested in poetry, the roots of modern poetry, American history, the roots of American individualism, or Whitman himself, you can’t go wrong here.

The second course, which begins in June, is called How Writers Write, and features a survey of writers from various literary walks of life. I think this course might be particularly useful to people who are actively writing because there are a lot of conventional beliefs about how writing is or should be done, and nothing obliterates such assertions more quickly than hearing writers speak to those issues themselves.

I consider it axiomatic that half of writing is learning the craft and the other half is learning how you yourself write. No two writers go about it the same way, and hearing from other writers how they engage the process of writng can be quite liberating. Particularly when they’re even more idiocincratic than you.

— Mark Barrett


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Comments

  1. Jose says

    Hola. For those interested in online writing classes UCLA has a good reputation. Personally, I would be surprised if most writing classes are worth it. The class Mark refers to will cost a lot more than any number of books that will achieve the same purpose. As for workshops some believe they are essential. I fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. I believe writer’s workshops are way overrated. To each his own I guess.

    • says

      Both of the courses mentioned in the post are free.

      In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a MOOC that costs money. Given that “any number of books” would have to be purchased (unless you’re an avid pirate/thief) I think simple math makes clear that the courses mentioned in the post are the better economic choice if that criteria is important to you.

      As for suggesting that workshops are “essential” I don’t know anyone who’s ever made that case. What seems undeniable is that workshops shorten the amount of time you need to spend honing your craft because they concentrate useful feedback. You can think of that in terms of opportunity cost if it helps. (Again, it’s really just a question of simple math.)

      Reading books and attending workshops are not mutually exclusive. If you prefer one over the other that’s fine. When you’re learning the craft of writing I think the best approach is to immerse yourself in every way possible. If you’ve got the stuff to be a writer no workshop is going to convince you otherwise. If writing isn’t for you no library will change that.

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