UVA CWP Teaching Goals

This page lists teaching goals for our graduate student instructors. Distilling the art of writing into explicit teaching goals is an inherently fraught process, but also a necessary one. Until you know where you are going, it's awfully hard to plan a class. The goals listed here are not the only ones our instructors should have. These are program minimums, a core set of expectations. Most of our instructors will teach well beyond what we list here, but when an undergraduate student leaves one of our introductory classes, they should at least understand these basic concepts.

Introductory Fiction Writing

Goal Description
Change Students should understand that stories happen and are worth telling because a significant change has occurred. Once upon a time ... but then ... There is an occasion for the story.
Dialogue Students understand how to use dialogue in story—its formatting and mechanics—and especially how literary fiction employs dialogue and how it differs from real-world exchanges.
Setting Students understand the importance of setting and how it enhances a story. They move beyond basic description; the setting is an important choice for the writer and they portray it with specificity and detail.
Scene Students begin to understand how to create, sustain, and exit fictional scenes.
Introductory Exposition Students begin to understand how expository sections can link scenes in a story and the myriad other ways exposition can help compress a narrative (replacing direct action) or deepening a character (internal thought and backgrounding/foregrounding).
Point of View (POV) Students understand major fictonal points of view (first-, second-, and third-person), variations on these major POVs (plural first-person or third-person objective vs. third-person omniscient, for example), and begin to understand the inherent strengths and limitations that come with each POV choice.
Character, Agency, and Conflict Students begin to develop robust characters and understand that character development is a core component of most literary fiction. Their characters are not just people things happen to, but people who make things happen. And the characters are, on some level, in conflict with each other.
Description, Detail, and Precision Students learn to revise their stories toward specific sensory detail and precise description.
Manuscript Format and Style Students learn how to deliver a properly formatted fiction manuscript (or portfolio) for a college-level class.

Introductory Poetry Writing

Goal Description
Major Poetic Terms and Forms Students should understand major historical and contemporary forms of poetry and the terms used to describe and analyze them.
Imagery and Precision Students understand the importance of imagery and learn to revise toward greater detail and precision.
Metaphor and Simile Students understand how to convey meaning through carefully crafted associations.
Rhythm and Sound Devices Students begin to hear the poetry on the page, learning major forms of repetition and rhyme. They learn to write for the ear as well as the heart.
Enjambment Students understand the importance of line breaks, especially in free verse forms.
Narrative Poetry Students learn the various ways poems can capture narrative, story, and persona in both historical and contemporary ways.
Lyric Poetry Students learn how lyric poetry can distill the complexity of the human condition into precisely rendered images, sound, and voice.
Manuscript Format and Style Students learn how to deliver a properly formatted poetry manuscript (or portfolio) for a college-level class.