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ENG 322

Creative Writing II: Nonfiction Topics

This course will explore a specific genre of nonfiction in depth. Class will operate as an advanced writing workshop that uses master works as models and inspiration. Offerings might include profiles, travel writing, personal essays, reviews, memoir, nature writing or literary nonfiction. Prerequisite: ENG 201.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
ENG 201 1 course

Spring Semester information

Gregory Schwipps

322A: Creative Nonfiction Topics: Nature Writing

Creative nonfiction, like fiction or poetry, is a type of creative writing. As such, it uses the tools of the creative writer: figurative language (similes, metaphors), dialogue, flashbacks, scenes, frames -- in short, tools that increase the dramatic effect of a piece of writing. Various types of creative nonfiction exist: personal essays, articles, travel accounts, profiles, memoirs and narrative histories. The lines surrounding this genre are not clear, and arguments do occur regarding the true definition of creative nonfiction. Not every Introduction to Creative Writing course covers creative nonfiction, so we will read quite a bit to gain a sense of the genre and its possibilities. Class discussions over the reading material should provide insight into your own writing options. But, as a writing course, much of our class time will be spent workshopping the written work of your peers. Not everything you write will be workshopped; some projects you will want to keep fairly private. However, we will utilize the workshop for two of the five projects. Creative nonfiction tends to be misunderstood, even though it has grown in popularity and scope. My main objective in this course is to expose students to the genre and give them practical experience writing it. We will work in class to understand the business of writing, and you will write query letters to learn how to sell your writing ideas. As a Nature Writing topics course, our readings and most of your written work will connect to the natural world in some way.

Jeannie Vanasco

322B: Creative Non-Fiction: Topics: On Form and Experimentation in Memoir

First, you do not need to be the world's youngest surgeon/senator/CEO in order to write a memoir. You can write about your dog if you do it well. Memoir is all in the telling.

We will explore the possibilities of dramatic presentation--how you can take a seemingly small-stakes memory, and very little action, and methodically create the conditions for conflict.

Individually, we will find the forms that best suit our projects. In order to do so, we will read formally inventive memoirs that borrow from other disciplines--such as anthropology, poetry, criticism, film, graphic novels, and medicine--and "steal" what we can from those works.

By mid-May, through some rare alchemy of experience and artfulness, you will have written a personal essay between 3,000 and 5,000 words.

Texts may include: Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, Annie Ernaux's Shame, Sarah Manguso's Two Kinds of Decay and Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, Eula Biss' The Balloonists, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted, Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely,, Hilton Als' The Women, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, The Art of Time in Memoir by Sven Birkerts, and Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf.

Fall Semester information

Samuel Autman

322A: Nonfiction Topics: The Memoir Essay

"Memoir, obviously, has to do with memory, and though that might mean writing about an event in one's childhood, it is well worth remembering that you are by no means so limited," writes Dinty Moore in Crafting The Personal Essay. His definition serves as an apt description for this course. In it students will write four personal essays to be read and critiqued by peers with an eye toward improvement. Openness to discovering what the story is about is key to writing successful personal essays. (Students can expect to pay between $20 and $25 for photocopying fees. There is no book.)