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Undergraduate English Courses

351:305 Creative Writing Non-Fiction

Spring 2016

Prerequisite: 351:211 or 351:212 (Or permission of instructor)

Section # Subtitle Index # Instructor Day/Period Room # Campus
01 The Journalistic Essay 16037 Jurecic T TH 4 MU-001 CAC
02 Writing About People, Place and Performance 05868 Blaney T TH 6 MU-001 CAC
04 Lying Responsibly: Translating Memory into Narrative 13475 Hoen TF2 MU-003 CAC

Section 01: The Journalistic Essay
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to write about contemporary events, bigideas, and personal perceptions like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Joan Didion, or the producers of the Serial podcast, this writing seminar is for you. In a lively semester-long workshop, you’ll cultivate the habits and skills of highly curious, intellectually creative, nonfiction writers. You’ll practice reading literary journalism with a writer’s eye, so as to understand the kinds of questions, problems, and paradoxes that make for compelling essays and articles. You’ll learn how to do deep research, how to develop ideas, and how to structure your presentation of those ideas. You’ll also experiment with writing for the Web, using design, sounds, and images.

While your writing will be at the center of the course, we’ll regularly read article-length works by a variety of late-20th-century and contemporary nonfiction writers. Precisely which works we read will depend, in part, on the interests of the participants, but we’re likely to read articles by writers such as Coates and Didion as well as Eula Biss, Malcolm Gladwell, Leslie Jamison, and Jill Lepore.

Section 02: Writing about People, Place and Performance
The Course will be roughly divided into three sections:
i) Writing about People
ii) Writing about Place/Travel
iii) Writing about Performance (Art)
In each case, we will discuss techniques and conventions, look at published examples, draft our own attempts, exchange criticism and revise. there will be multiple exercises and short, directed writing assignments, both in and out of class. 

Section 04: Lying Responsibly: Translating Memory into Narrative
In this course we’ll investigate the range of possibilities and styles in contemporary memoir by reading the work of some of the most vital living writers of “creative nonfiction.” We’ll discuss the issues of ethics, perception, and authenticity that arise when a writer uses memory (theirs or someone else’s) as the source material for their work, and we’ll study a number of devices to employ (or avoid) when rendering narrative from “real life” events. For example: When is it okay to make composite characters (blending multiple people into one) or compress time for the sake of storytelling? How do memoirists account for what they can't remember, or when they don't trust their own memories? Is there any such thing as an objectivity when it comes to a person's interpretation of an emotional experience? Central to class will be a writing workshop for which students will turn in memoirs and essays of their own and will engage in discourse on their peers’ writing. Ideally, through ongoing discussion and revision, each student will come away an enhanced knowledge of nonfiction writing and several polished drafts of their own creative work.