English 323-01 Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater
Tue/Thur 9:30-10:50 McIver 144 334-5263
“Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
Creative nonfiction is a writing course focused on a genre of literature made up of subgenres such as the personal essay, memoir, reportage, and expressive writing whose borders with other genres are fluid and malleable. This translates into suggesting that creative nonfiction allows for great innovation in voice and form to shape a “fourth” literary genre. This also translates into saying that if you love to write and read, this course will be really really fun for you.
The purpose of the course is to allow you to explore and experiment with many forms of creative nonfiction prose writing: the essays in its many garbs and disguises. We’ll begin the class with a short-segmented essay and move into whatever form interests each writer as she puts together a portfolio of three to four final pieces of writing. In addition to compiling twenty pages of essay writing, you will also write a short essay about yourself as a writer who has both read and written within this genre.
Rituals and Rules:
The course will be conducted primarily as a workshop where participants share, respond to, and support each other’s work in progress. The course is organized so that every writer’s work will receive written and oral feedback in workshop format so that every participant will be writing weekly in response to his peers’ writing. And, because writing and reading are so intricately connected, we will also read a wide range of creative nonfiction together. Or, as Toni Morrison more elegantly puts it: “Writing and reading are not all that distinct for a writer. Both exercises require being alert and ready for unaccountable beauty, for the intricateness of simple elegance of the writer’s imagination, for the world that imagination evokes.”
You are expected to come to class on time, engage fully in the reading and writing in the course and to complete all the assignments. Poor attendance, tardiness, lack of participation or failure to do the course work will result in a substantially lower grade.
“ When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of word’s is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path for you to follow... You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads.” Annie Dillard
By the end of this course you should be able to:
Write clearly, coherently and effectively within a variety of essay genres.
Understand different audiences and adapt writing accordingly.
Incorporate the feedback from you peers and instructor into your writing.
Edit your work so that it conforms to standard usage.
Organize your text so that it reads fluently.
Read and respond widely within the essay genre.
King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Scribner edition.
Root, Robert and Michael Steinberg, editors. The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction. Second edition.
You are asked to keep a writer’s notebook where you respond to our weekly readings from King’s book and from The Fourth Genre. These responses need not be either formal or long but should provide you with some ideas, passages, or images for our discussions of the readings. These responses may be either typed or handwritten but should be ready before our class discussions on Tuesdays. I will occasionally take up your responses and will review the writer’s notebook both at mid-term and the end of the course when you will submit some of them in your portfolio.
You are asked to respond to your peers’ essays weekly in the form of a letter. These responses should be thoughtful, thorough, and constructive. Each week you will give your signed written responses to the writer who will use them to revise their work. If for some reason you are not in class on Tuesday, it is your responsibility to get the drafts to read before coming to Thursdays class.
We will begin by reading and writing the “segmented” essay. After that experiment, you will chose to work in whatever subgenre of creative nonfiction that interests you. The essay deadlines are clearly marked on the syllabus** Since your essays form the center of our weekly workshops, the deadlines are strict. The last paper you write will be about your own writing process as it has been shaped by the course.
“ An essayist stands in for the rest of us, telling us what he feels and thinks and cares about, what he’s seen and learned from childhood on...” Edward Hoagland o
Portfolios and Evaluation:
Your midterm and final evaluation will be based on your polished, revised collection of essays written for this course. In addition to your essays, you will also include from five to ten reading responses from your notebook, several commentaries you have written to your peers and a letter introducing and describing your portfolio. Your class participation, attendance, general enthusiasm and commitment as well as your ability to complete all the course requirements will be reflected in your final grade.
Dates Topic Reading Writing
8/20 Introductions Artifact exchange
8/22 Segmented essays Nye(135)Griffin(66) Notebook responses
8/27 Writers on writing King (68) Notebook responses
8/29 Writers on writing King(137) Self as Writer**
9/3 Memoir Blew(19) Blew(232) Notebook response
9/5 Writers on writing King(208) Segmented essay**
9/10 Personal essay Conroy(49) Lopate(105) Notebook responses
9/12 Writing Workshop Student essays Responses to peer writers
9/17 Essays on relationships Lott(113),Chavez(30) Notebook response
9/19 Writing Workshop Student essays Responses to peers
9/24 Essays on relationships Toth(209) Willard(216) Notebooks responses
9/26 Writing Workshop King(complete) Essay due**
10/1 Essays on place Lamay(100) Stanton(417) Notebook responses
10/3 Writing Workshop Stanton(425) Student essays Response to peers
10/8 Nature essays Dillard(54) Hogan(87) Notebook responses
10/10 Writing Workshop Gilb(62) Student essays Mid-term Portfolios due
today in class **
All writing for mid-term portfolios must be revised.
10/15 FALL BREAK, NO CLASS
10/17 Writers on the Essay Dillard(236) Essay due**
10/22 Essays on culture Cliff(37) Norris(130) Notebook responses
10/24 Writing Workshop Hampl(259) Responses to peers
10/29 Essays on culture Cofer(42)Iyer(90) Notebook responses
10/31 Writing Workshop Schwartz(338) Responses to peers
11/5 Writers on the essay Pearson(316) Essay due**
11/7 Writing Workshop Student essays Responses to peers
11/12 Writing about work Selzer(173)Pope(403) Notebook responses
11/14 Writing Workshop Selzer(334) Response to peers
11/19 Writers on writing Faery(246) Bring responses to writers writing to class**
11/21 Writer’s Histories Review essays on writing Essay due on self as writer**
11/26/11/28 NO CLASSES Thanksgiving/ NCTE conference
“The essay...is a great meadow of style and personal manner, freed from the need for defense except that provided by an individual intelligence and sparkle. We consent to watch a mind at work, without agreement often, but only for pleasure”
12/3 Revision Workshop
12/5 Last Class
There will be no exam in this course but we will use our exam time to read from our portfolios.