Innovative Writing Across Media: An Introduction to the College Workshop (Bi-Lingual - English/Chinese)

Department: Humanities

Instructor: Matthew Wills
Instructor Email:
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

In this course, students will explore a variety of forms of writing, from well-established genres such as literature through to revolutionary new forms of communication. We will be working in translation with materials published in a variety of languages, and this course will allow multilingual students to use their language skills. In class, students will learn about and develop the basic skills needed in college writing workshops: producing original writing, thinking critically, annotating the work of others with comments, discussing assigned readings, revising work, and presenting a portfolio of work to their peers. Students will also learn about the ways technology is changing our understanding of what constitutes “writing” and how we access it in day-to-day life. Participants will have many opportunities to explore their own creative side and produce work for a class anthology due to be published at the conclusion of the course.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

This course is about having fun, learning new ways of thinking, and being creative. Students should build a working knowledge of how to produce and discuss writing suited to their own tastes, backgrounds, interests, and academic pursuits. Students will become more confident writers and thinkers, capable of composing and analyzing different types of writing. This course will stress appropriate techniques for writing effectively in different genres and for different audiences, and the importance of writing appropriate to context. Students should also finish the course with an understanding of how technology is continuing to open up space for different styles of writing, while at the same time presenting new challenges for how we think critically about texts.

Course Outline

Week 1 – Literature, Poetry and Playwriting

  1. What do we mean by “literature”?
  2. Is it possible to “translate” one language into another?
  3. How do writers engage their audience?

Activities: introductory exercises; translation game; writing and performing a short stage play.

Lectures: “What makes writing “literature”?”; “Writing for an audience- the art of keeping their attention”

Week 2 – Innovative Writing to Critique, Argue and Persuade

  1. How do we write criticism creatively?
  2. What are the building blocks of a successful argument?
  3. How do we judge creativity?

Activities: argumentative essay-writing contest; film reviewing for different audiences

Lectures: “The fascinating history of the essay”; “Argument versus opinion- is there a difference?”

Week 3 – Writing in the Digital Age

  1. What are the impacts of computer technology on our concept of “innovative writing”?
  2. Can creative writing survive in the digital age?
  3. How has the Internet changed our access to writing?

Activities: writing “Twitterature”; designing our own emojis; final presentation of class work

Lectures: “What is the meaning of “😂” ?”; “Can writing survive in the digital age?”

NOTE: Each day will begin with a discussion of a relevant text or assigned film. Students will be expected to produce short, written responses to the texts we are discussing. These responses should discuss one of the three topics for the week.


Each week, we will be working with a variety of texts related to course themes. The readings build on each other over the duration of the course, but also aim to present you with exciting examples of very different types of writing. As a guide, here are some of the texts we will study:

  • Selections from The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature (English, with Chinese source texts).
  • Anon., The Duke of Shao (translations by Arthur Waley and Ezra Pound, with Chinese source texts).
  • Su Shi, Ode to the Red Cliff (English translation, with Chinese source text).
  • J. B. Priestley, An Inspector Calls (2015 film adaptation).
  • Anon., Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (English translation by Robert Van Gulik, with Chinese source text).
  • Pierre Bayard, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?
  • Selections from The New Yorker and “Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Lu Xun, “Knowledge is a Crime.” (English translation, with Chinese source text).
  • Mario Vargas Llosa, Notes on the Death of Culture.
  • Mark Judge, “‘Star Wars’ and the End of Culture.” (
  • Robert Darnton, “The Great Cat Massacre.” The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History.
  • Alexander Ecimen and Emmett Rensin, Twitterature: the World’s Greatest Literature in Twenty Tweets or Less.
  • Selections from Marcel Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji.
  • Oxford University Press, “Announcing the 2015 “Word” of the Year.”  (
  • Selections from Anne Jamison, Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World (includes writings from famous online authors).


Grades will be assigned based on engagement in class discussion, daily writing exercises, short critical response papers, and regular presentations (performances) of original writing. Students are expected to be respectful of their instructors and generous with their classmates – read pieces aloud, participate in group activities, offer constructive suggestions, and be respectful of people’s feelings and styles.

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