About Stephanie Barbé Hammer

Stephanie Barbé Hammer is a prose writer, magical realist, and a committed, intermittent poet. A four-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize she has published work in Hayden's Ferry, Pearl, CRATE, Rhapsoidia, NYCBigCityLit, the East Jasmine Review, Apeiron, Inlandia, and the Bellevue Literary Review among other places. Her fabulist novel _The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior_ appeared in March 2015 with Urban Farmhouse Press. Her poetry collection _How Formal?_ was published in 2014 with Spout Hill Press and her prose poem collection _SEX WITH BUILDINGS_ was published in May 2012 by Dancing Girl Press. Stephanie is addicted to teaching, and is currently co-editor for nonfiction at East Jasmine Literary Review.

Welcome to the archived website for Creative Writing 14/German 14: the German Big 10


Dear Visitor —

Welcome to the archived website for a course I developed and taught at the University of California, Riverside campus. This particular iteration of the course was given in Spring 2013.

Since UCR is a public university, I made the assignments, syllabus, and as much of the writing as possible available online.

The “German Big 10” refers to 10 writers that any educated person (and in particular any person interested in creative writing) should know.* I — as instructor — insisted that we read Immanuel Kant and Martin Luther. But after that, students were invited to debate and discuss amongst themselves whom they wanted to study. This strategy is based on Neil Postman’s work, in which he argues that students must learn actively rather than passively, and this can only happen if the classroom operates as a democratic space. I was dubious about such an approach, but when used with some limits, it creates a highly engaged group of students who work harder because they have chosen the material they are studying.

Please feel free to browse through the topics. Please remember that they are arranged in reverse order (the oldest are last). If you are interested in the creative writing question, you may want to start with the discussion of a creative writing exercise called a freewrite.

That topic is here: https://thegermanbig10.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/what-is-freewriting-and-why-is-this-a-smart-thing-for-writers-to-do/

A variation on a freewrite exercise is here: https://thegermanbig10.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/slow-write/

Herzlichen Dank and viel Spass (thank you and have fun!)

Stephanie Barbé Hammer

* this class is only the first of an array of classes that could be developed focussing on a particular language/cultural tradition. I have in mind The French Big 10, or the Spanish Big 10, the Arabic Big 10, the Swahili Big 10 and so on. This approach educates students about a particular history of a culture/nation as it enables them to use that information to craft short stories, poetry, plays, and even short screenplays.


reflecting on yourself…end of the quarter meditation

Please take at least 20 minutes to think about your self in this class this quarter.If you did the midterm self-eval, please talk about the challenges, pleasures (if any), and realizations that you made about yourself as a learner in the second part of the quarter. Which modern texts from our class did you hate, love, find weird, helpful, or all of these?

If you did not do the midterm self-evaluation, then you will need to take a bit more time and space: write about your experiences of yourself as a student encountering writers like Kant and Luther, and how the experience changed or did not change, when you got to Brecht, Celan, and Tawada.

Now, think and write honestly about the quality of your work, in your own estimation. What grade do you want to get? What grade do you feel that you deserve? If these are not the same, please talk about why the difference might exist, and speculate on what you might do differently to enjoy/learn from/challenge yourself/take responsibility in/for the next class in a more meaningful fashion.

Were you a community-minded student in this class, or were you concentrating on taking care of #1? Did you provide assistance to a student or a group of students, and do you feel this was an important gesture that you want to name?  Or, did you receive assistance from another student, and would you like to credit or give thanks to that person or persons?

Lastly, what piece of work did you create in this class — if any — that you loved and feel proud of? Why?

How to get Crafty — the Beginning – Morgner and Tawada

Try the following 3 sets of exercises in class today or at home (hand in electronically to me today, Thursday, May 23rd, or next Tuesday, May 28th).  MOOCER’s If you’re just following along, give these strategies a try with any short story that you admire.

here we go!

1.  Take a look at the first 3 sections of Morgner’s “Love Legend.” With 1-2 partners  (but not more) or on your own, consider and write down answers to the following questions:

  1. what mystery (ies)  does the author establish in the first section?
  2. is the author doing a narrative description or are we in a specific scene?
  3. what phrases of description jump out at you? Come up with 4
  4. in parts 1, 2, and 3 what pieces of information emerge to describe the “stranger.”  Name at least 3. How are they spaced/arranged in the narrative?
  5. What physical gestures does the author use to show sexual tension/competition?

Now take a look at the opening paragraph of both “Canned Foreign” and “The Talisman.”

1. Are we in scene in these first sentences? What author (that we have read in this class) is this approach imitating?

2. In “Canned Foreign” how many times does the author narrate a fact using “oftentimes” or use some other indication that what she’s talking about is habitual or repeated?

3. Is “The Talisman” or an essay? What would you argue, and what evidence would you use to argue this point?

The turns of the middle: Morgner and Tawada

Take a look at sections 4, 5, and 6 of Morgner’s story. John Updike once said “I love the middle — it’s where everything happens.” Think about that as you consider and write down answers to the following…

1. What kind of narrative do we get right after “Your place or mine? Mine.”? What are we expecting? Why don’t we get it?

2. React to this first sexual encounter.  What words in particular surprise you?

5. what tension gets created in section 5? What’s the problem?  are we in scene or in narrative description? Explain how this is working.

6. what physical responses does Morgner choose in sections 5 and 6 to show how the protagonist’s emotions are changing? Name at least 2.

Now look at the Tawada stories:  

1. In “Canned Foreign” there’s a sort of almost scene on p.3. what’s the “turn”? What does the protagonist “realize”?

2. Where are the “turns” in “The Talisman”? (hint — they happen about halfway through the story). Name 2.

twisting towards the end: Morgner and Tawada

Take a look at how these authors move towards the end…

Consider and answer the following:

Morgner: what surreal/unreal plot twist does the author insert in the last 1/3 of the story? Take a look at sections 7, 8, 9 and 10. How has the tempo of the story shifted? Why?

Tawada: the focus shifts towards language in “Canned Foreign.” What specific objects does the author introduce and use in the rest of the story? Where in the time frame of the story do those objects exist?

There’s a yet another “turn” = an anti-turn where there’s resistance to the first turns in ‘The Talisman.” What does the author make happen?

Opening freewrite — jot down some ideas to write about later on penzu or in your electronic journal

1. What was it like to keep people from entering the classroom (if you are a guard)


What was it like to experience being shut out of the classroom?

GIve 3 emotional reactions.

2. What was it like to have to produce an i.d. in order to enter class?  write a sentence.

3. You then received a card with a civil entitlement written on it. Please write a paragraph (10 sentences) about what how valuable this entitlement might be, and specifically what entitlements you would be willing to give up in order to get the entitlement on your card. What entitlements WOULD be valuable to you?

Artifact Perusal

Take a stroll along the table, and look at the different artifacts. Feel free to pick up any of the objects. Choose 1 to write about, but be sure to put it back and leave it on the table.

Go back to you seat, and write a 10 sentence paragraph where you speculate about the sort of society that produced the object you chose.  How do the people live? What is important to them?

Resisting the hegemony — _Lives of Others_ quick brain storm

Hegemony = the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.  Merriam-Webste Online Dictionary

A hegemonic portrayal of history is one that is “dominant” and serves whoever (or whatever) is “in charge.”

After looking at THE LIVES OF OTHERS, think about what current events, social injustices, political issues, and real-world problems are being “hegemonically” narrated by the media. As you can see from the film, these narratives are persuasive and powerful.

Now think about now and here — about your life and your neighborhood and the people you know.

What injustices, social/political issues, and problems do you care about personally that are being under- or even non-reported? 

Jot down a list of these concerns, if you have several. If you have 1, start brainstorming about a possible story, series of poems, screenplay, telescript, or play about your concern.

if you do not have a real concern of this type, then make one up!

Please turn this in to me via email or penzu by 4:50.

If handing in a hard copy, please hand in by 4:50 sharp. Thank you so much!