Philly Word

Write, blog, and vlog about Philadelphia — interview Philadelphia literary figures, meet publishers, visit film festivals, explore literary archives, and participate in writing workshops.

ENGL-209 Philly Word

This course fulfills the Art core curriculum requirement.

Philadelphia’s literary culture makes a major contributor to the fabric of vibrant activity in this complex city. Philadelphia’s writers of various genres have a central place in this literary culture. Their words, however, thrive in a network that includes libraries, readings, community and youth programs, and still-persevering bookstores. What’s more, publishers and film festivals, literary archives and workshops all enrich Philly’s literary personality. 

Students in Philly Word will chronicle their exposure to Philadelphia’s literary culture and articulate its meanings, using fact-based, interpretative, and creative writing forms.  As they engage fact-based sources as well as interview subjects, the students will practice creative processes for writing about those experiences.  They will develop a dialogue about the links between literary culture and community through blogs or vlogs. 

Readings, writing exercises, short research assignments, attendance at cultural events, and collaborative blogs will prepare them to create an anthology of lyrical essays to be shared online.


  • Read, respond to, and evaluate examples of fiction, nonfiction, lyrical essays and poems by Philadelphia writers.
  • Visit Philadelphia literary culture events and sites to engage with primary and secondary sources.
  • Write short essays and vignettes that combine their responses to texts and to events/sites.
  • Pursue research through documents and interviews that inform their writing assignments.
  • Ruminate on discoveries and themes by blogging.
  • Write a final lyric essay.
  • Work collectively to assemble the essays in an online anthology.


Class meetings will include the following activities:

  • Discussions of primary and secondary source materials
  • Trips to cultural events, such as the Philalalia Independent Publishing Festival at Temple University, reading sites, such as the Asian Arts Initiative, and projects, such as Phila. Young Playwrights
  • Craft workshops to practice, and experiment with forms
  • Engagement through interviews, dialogues and participatory work, where appropriate, with community members

Attractions: Philly Word offers students a way to realize the city of Philadelphia as an engine of culture, and literary pursuits as a connective, rather than an exclusive, force. They may be intrigued by the chance to travel in the city with a common mission—the idea that expressive language manifests in the lives of people, builds community, and affirms values. They are likely to value a chance to process what they learn, using a blend of fact-finding, invention, and collaboration that seems approachable.  Such a process allows them to practice a writing voice they may not have realized that they had. Students who enjoy creative writing but are unsure of how to direct their energies may welcome the security facts and public events provide. Others may savor the aspect of collage that lyrical essays include. Rarely do students in a 200-level course get to investigate archives, which could open their eyes to professional pursuits they had not considered. 

Scheduling:   The class would meet once a week.

Get More Information

For more information about this course, contact Prof. Nzadi Keita.