Promiscuous Forms: Reading and Writing Across Genres with Kasia van Schaik


Sundays, from 5 to 8 pm starting July 22

In this seven-week writing workshop and seminar we will explore modes of writing that do not fit into particular genres (such as the short story, the poem, the essay, or the novel) but rather break down the boundaries between these particular literary forms. In order to de-centre traditional western canonical forms and make space for new voices and perspectives, the majority of chosen works are by women and people of colour, who work at the margins and the seams of genre. Questions this course poses are: what kinds of new forms arise when we disassemble, rupture, or cross-stitch together traditional literary categories?  What kinds of aesthetic or political questions are made possible by these new and hybrid forms? What are these texts performing? What are the ways in which these writers find empowerment in writing from the margins?

 The weekly seminar will include discussions of selected readings, and engagement in generative writing exercises, followed by a writing workshop. The writing exercises are meant to encourage participants to try writing between genres and across forms.

 We will be reading a broad range of work ranging from the “anti-novels” of Bhanu Kapil (Ban en Banlieue) and Roberto Bolaño (Antwerp) to the experimental essays of Renee Gladman and the prose poetry of writers such as Anne Carson, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine and Jordan Abel. We will also look at the increasingly popular cross-genre form of auto-fiction or auto-theory, examining its evolution and mutations in segments from Yoko Tawada’s travelogue in fragments Where Europe Begins, Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls, Chris Kraus’s Aliens and Anorexia and W. B. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn.

After reading these works and engaging with their own creative praxis, participants will gain a better overview of the field of contemporary cross-genre literature, as well as a more intimate understanding of the possibilities and limits of traditional forms. All are welcome and no previous writing experience is necessary.

 Note: This course is limited to 8 participants

This class will run Sundays from 5-8pm for 7 weeks.
Class dates will be: July 22, July 29, Aug 5, Aug 12, Aug 19, Aug 26, Sept2. 

Kasia Juno van Schaik is a South African born, Montreal-based writer and lecturer at McGill University. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, where she studied with the internationally acclaimed author Anne Michaels. She received the Quebec Writer’s Federation Short Story Prize in 2009 and was a finalist for the CBC short story prize and the 3Macs Carte Blanche Prize in 2017. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The Best Canadian Poetry (2015), the L.A. Review of Books, Maisonnueve Magazine, The Rumpus, This Magazine, CBC Books, and elsewhere. Before coming to McGill, Kasia taught writing at the University of Toronto and at the University of Art and Design in Berlin. Her doctoral research at McGill focuses on short fiction, memoir, and cross-genre works by contemporary women writers. Find her at or listen to her recent interview with CBC radio: