Teaching Creative Writing with Python

Location: D133
Average rating: ****.
(4.20, 5 ratings)

For the past three years, I have taught a graduate-level course in creative writing that masquerades as a course about Python. (NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program offers the course; you can see the syllabus here: http://rwet.decontextualize.com/) The course concerns the classic tension in poetry between decontextualization and juxtaposition: deciding what a text’s constituent elements are, breaking the text into those elements, and then bringing them back together in surprising and interesting ways. Students are taught not just about string processing and text analysis, but also about the poetic possibilities of using those techniques to algorithmically build new texts. Each semester, the course culminates in a live performance, in which each student must read aloud for an audience a text that one of their programs has generated.

In this presentation, I present my methodology for teaching the course, along with my successes (and my failures) in using Python in a creative and pedagogical setting. I lightly touch on the history of algorithmic poetics, in addition to presenting some of the sample code used in the class.

This presentation is targeted toward Python programmers interested in creative uses of the language and educators seeking discussion and examples of Python being used in education (particularly higher education).

Adam Parrish


Adam hacks on web technologies at Socialbomb. He is also an adjunct professor at Hunter College and NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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Picture of Ricardo Signes
Ricardo Signes
08/01/2011 12:19am PDT

This is the talk that led to me spending the most money, buying almost all the books mentioned in it.

This talk didn’t teach programming or poesy, but did present really novel ideas on getting people interested in programming by solving a very unusual problem. I had a lot of fun imagining what I would have written, had I been in the speaker’s class, and I might just go write those programs anyway.

I ordered a few of the books mentioned and, while in Portland picked up “The Sonnets” and Powell’s. It has been very enjoyable. While I know every talk can’t be like this one, I hope we continue to have a few unusual and interesting talks like this one in years to come.

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Peter Banka
07/29/2011 5:45am PDT

Was really looking forward to this talk. Did not disappoint.

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Daniel Bernier
07/29/2011 5:21am PDT

Bummed I couldn’t make this talk – an emphatic “thanks!” for putting up the slides.