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  • Seminar
  • Online: Zoom
  • Adult (18+)

The Lost World: Harnessing the Power of Descriptive Prose in the Novel

No Longer Enrolling

  • $65.00 Non-Member
  • $55.00 Member

Class Description

What makes certain novels so irresistible? What gives them the power to colonize the imagination so completely that putting them down is like parting with a beloved friend? The ingredients aren’t so hard to isolate: complex, coherent, sympathetic characters; robust narrative energy instilled by way of excruciating dramatic tension and conflict; a compelling voice; deeply resonant thematic unities; and a well-rendered setting that creates the effect of an entire, vibrant world. It is the last category in particular that gives many novels their deep emotional power: descriptive writing that appeals to the deeply ingrained human yearning for sensory completeness, for a return to what has been termed the domaine perdu, or the Lost World. The Lost World is the Eden myth. It has a tremendous resonance in every culture. It’s one of the main engines that drives writers to describe, and that allows readers to be transfixed by fine descriptive prose.

In this craft-based seminar, we’ll examine passages from a number of contemporary and classic novels in order to understand how the Lost World operates. We’ll trace its influence on the content and structure of works by authors as diverse in approach as Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Colum McCann, Edith Wharton, Patrick O'Brian, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Welch, and we’ll discuss various ways it can be used to give fiction enhanced power and meaning. Finally, we’ll undertake a series of generative writing exercises designed to help students identify their own Lost Worlds—and to harness them in the interest of creating irresistible, deeply resonant fiction.

Scholarships Format/Location

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. About 15 minutes before your class is scheduled to begin, you'll receive an email from your instructor with a link to join the class meeting!

Zoom Participation:

Students are not required to turn their camera on, but are encouraged to participate any way they feel comfortable through functions such as the live chat, emoji reactions, and unmuting the microphone. Learn more about using Zoom here.

Zoom Accessibility:

We ask that instructors enable closed captioning and send a transcript of the session after class. You can also enable closed captioning at any time during the meeting. If your instructor forgets to send the transcript, just send ’em an email!