While scholars debate the origins of creative writing in the American academy, faculty at institutions including Harvard sometimes accepted fiction or poetry for class credit by the late nineteenth century (Myers 283). Even if the following excerpt from the 1895 Quips and Cranks yearbook is merely satirical, the same was true at Davidson.
Clearly, Davidson’s students read and wrote creatively long before the advent of formal creative writing instruction in our curriculum. Hoping to spark student curiosity in past student creative production, I designed the senior seminar Eng. 422: Creating Narratives to foreground archival research into this topic.
The class design also reflects its context. Our students were often isolated in the 2020-21 academic year, attending classes virtually from their dorm rooms, apartments, and parents’ houses. The pandemic strongly impacted planned travel and made site-based internships difficult, if not impossible. And so, the seminar placed a premium on building connections—between an institutional past that experienced viral outbreaks, wars, and social upheavals and 2021, between past generations of students missing home, struggling in classes, and entertaining themselves and current student practices, between the college and its town.
Most importantly, the class foregrounded connection through collaboration, as students worked in pairs to construct a timeline of literary publications on campus, then in groups to shape, narrow, and carry out extended research projects on topics of interest. Over multiple weeks, seminar participants collaborated in uncovering evidence of student literary activity on campus, analyzing that evidence, then situating these activities amid literary trends and collegiate practices for digital publication. In doing so, they reconnected with each other and with the talented library partners who so richly informed and supported these projects.
In gratitude, Shireen Campbell, Professor of English