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English Online Courses

The University Without Walls (UWW) at UMass Amherst offers online courses and degree programs. For students taking classes on campus, you will need to request an enrollment appointment on Spire before you can enroll in UWW courses. To learn more about UWW and the online degree programs they offer visit their website at

Winter 2021 Session  

English 354 Creative Writing: Speculative Fiction: Myth, Fantasy & Afrofuturism
Instructor: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu
Ranging from fantasy to horror, speculative fiction is fiction that speculates, or asks “What if?” From dragons to Mami Watas, this course will be dedicated to the reading and writing of speculative fiction. We will experiment with the myths, folklores, and tall-tales from our own cultures, traditions, and hometowns and use them to construct new worlds. We will interrogate what speculative fiction offers us in terms of how we think about our universe, our planet, and our political systems. Part of this course will focus on Afrofuturism, a speculative fiction genre that centers African mythology. The majority of the works we will engage with are works by women and BIPOC writers such as Carmen Maria Machado, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, N.K Jemisin, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Ken Liu, and many more. Assignments will include reading and writing assignments which will culminate in a final portfolio of original work. Classes will consist of discussions, writing activities, and responses to each other’s work.

Spring 2021 Session 

English 254 Reading and Writing Imaginative Literature: The Electric Sea: Young Adult Lit and Contemporary Reflection
Instructor: Sarah Coates
Young Adult books are important. An undervalued body of literature, YA is often regarded as having little literary merit, intellectual rigor, or poetic scope. But that’s just not true. It’s an electric sea where you can find POC and LGBTQ+ authors and authors with disabilities writing about race, queerness, transness, neurodiversity, and disability. It’s teaming with hard-hitting writing about pressing contemporary issues. And what all these books have in common are powerful young adult protagonists. 

In this class we’ll read YA fiction and poetry from authors such as Holly Black, Tomi Adeyemi, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, T.J. Klune, Elizabeth Acevedo, and writing partners (in pen and life) Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy. Through our readings we’ll grapple with how these authors weave worlds, plots, and characters around current existential questions in order to write YA ourselves. And we’ll look at the use of genre fiction, graphic novels, fan fiction, and novels in verse to explore the different possibilities of form. 

Poetry will be our compass. Writing it will lead us to the hearts of our stories. We’ll craft with meta and speculative fiction, traversing adjacent worlds in order to better understand our own. And we’ll also play to write. Through narrative games like D&D we’ll experiment with new modes of creation and learn from fate by rolling dice, building or destroying whole characters with each roll.

Most importantly, we’ll stretch our creative muscles to reflect on the present and future impacts of our current social, local, and global crises.
This course fulfills the AL General Education requirements. 

English 354 Creative Writing:  Writing and Reading the Self: Memoir and Autofiction
Instructor: David Richardson
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live," writes Joan Didion in The White Album. Perhaps the most important, consequential story we tell ourselves is the one that is about ourselves: our life story, our autobiography. While our identities are shaped by a host of social and circumstantial forces, we participate in the construction of our life stories by how we elect to communicate them.

This is the central wager of this course: we are what we narrate. In this online class, we will expand on this notion to consider how we narrate the self. What forms and genres are suitable to telling our stories? We will read and think about a host of contemporary writers considering this question through their choices of genre and style.

We will think first about that purportedly unassuming form, the memoir. What does the form of the memoir presuppose about what the self is and how to communicate it? What is the memoir best at, in terms of telling the writer's story? What does it fail to capture? 

We'll then move on to autofiction: the passage of the autobiographical self into narrative. When might it be best to communicate the self using the tools of fiction? What can fiction do that memoir or autobiography cannot? What truths are uniquely accessible through the work of artifice and invention? Isn't the self anyway always a kind of fiction, per Didion's dictum?

Finally, how does the journal or diary negotiate these two rhetorical modes? Is it somehow closer to the "authentic" self? What happens when the diarist takes up the question of audience? Of publication?

This course will analyze these questions and more as we consider what it means to write and communicate the self. This is an excellent course for those curious about contemporary trends in memoir and autofiction, especially for those who might be interested in trying their hand at writing in these forms.

lts and young adults for publishers including Penguin, HarperCollins and Walker Books.