Syllabus for English 314: Women`s Creative Nonfiction

Department ___English_______________________________________________
Date __Dec 8, 2004______________________
Course No.
__Advanced Creative Writing: Nonfiction_____________________
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______English 290________________________________________________________
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______Debra Cumberland________________ __457-5444_______
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English 409: Advanced Creative Writing: Nonfiction
A. Course Description:
1. Catalogue Description:
Advanced practice in the writing and revising of creative nonfiction, with
an emphasis on the development of the student’s individual style. Variable
content depends on the discretion of the instructor. Examples of other
topics may include: nature writing, the spiritual memoir, travel writing,
2. Course Outline of Major Topics and Subtopics:
Please note that the sample outline/syllabus provided here offers just one
of a number of possible topics for ENG 409 (see catalogue description
above). The following outline represents Advanced Creative Writing:
Women’s Creative Nonfiction (3. s.h.).
1. Introduction to the course
A) Theorizing creative nonfiction.
B) Historical roots of the genre
C) Conventions of the subgenre being explored
2. Mixing Research with Knowledge and Narrative
A) Oral history
B) Ethical issues; honesty
C) Incorporating research into narrative
3. Techniques of fiction writing
A) Use of composite characters
B) Dialogue
C) Showing versus telling
D) Reflection
4. Essay structure
A) Slicing up your life
B) Theme
C) Scene pearls or embroidery threads in an essay
3. Basic Instructional Plan and Method:
This course will involve lecture, discussion, workshopping, and individual
student presentations. Typically there will be both lecture and discussions
regarding the readings, and students will be practicing collaborative
learning by discussing texts and exercises in groups.
4. Course Requirements:
1. A weekly reading journal (approximately two pages) where students
respond to the assigned text.
2. A creative nonfiction essay (10-15 pages) with a preface (five pages) that
addresses issues of craft in your own essay and places your work in the
context of other works of creative nonfiction. Thus, the student essay itself
will be 10-15 pages with a rigorous introduction of approximately five
pages (not including a bibliography) that addresses theoretical issues about
the genre he/she is participating in. This will be revised three times and
submitted for possible publication to a journal of the student’s choice that
the student has researched.
3. Presentation. Students will be required to read deeply in an important
figure in creative nonfiction (their choice) and report on this individual to
the class in a ten minute presentation. The student will possibly be
required to come in character as this individual writer and give a talk as if
he/she were in fact that writer, and then open the class up for discussion. A
five page written analysis of that writer’s work will also be required.
4. A Final Exam. The final exam will consist of a craft essay. The student
will research and write a paper about creative nonfiction. Possible subjects
include, but are not limited to: an analysis of some aspect of a published
work of creative nonfiction (how Dorothy Allison establishes a sense of
intimacy in her essays, for example); a technique (the use of cinematic
techniques in narrative nonfiction); the historical roots of the genre (how
Montaigne’s essays have influenced a popular contemporary essayist); the
conventions of a subgenre (travel writing, the lyric essay); ethical issues
(the use of composite characters). The craft paper should be a minimum of
10 pages and will include a bibliography.
Thus, students will write a weekly reading journal of two pages each; will
revise a 10-15 page paper three times; will write a five page critical
introduction to that paper; and will write a ten page final paper that will be
submitted to a journal of their choice that they have spent the semester
researching. They will also give a 10-minute presentation on a writer of
their choice, coming in character as that writer, and talking about that
writer’s work. They will hand in a five page analysis of that writer’s work at
the end of their presentation. The final exam will be a craft paper of
approximately 10 pages. Thus, the total number of pages written will be
sixty pages, not including the three revisions. Including the three revisions,
the total number of pages would be approximately ninety.
5. Course Materials:
Texts for “Women’s Creative Nonfiction” could be taken from the following list:
Ackerman, Diane. A Natural History of the Senses.
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands.
Behar, Ruth. Translated Woman.
Behar, Ruth. The Vulnerable Observer.
Either: Cofer, Judith Ortiz. The Latin Deli. OR Silent Dancing.
Faderman, Lillian. Scotch Verdict.
Lorde, Audre. Zami.
Mairs, Nancy. Remembering the Bone House.
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Sebold, Alice. Lucky.
Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness.
Register, Cheri. Packinghouse Daughter.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Storyteller.
Slater, Lauren. Welcome to My Country.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.
Hooks, bell. Bone Black.
6. References
On the Essay and Literary Nonfiction:
Anderson, Chris. ed. Literary Nonfiction: Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989. The first section provides studies of
individual essayists, each study employing a different critical approach (aesthetic,
linguistic, rhetorical, formalist, psychoanalytic, poststructuralist-feminist, etc.); the
next provides more general critical studies; and the last is “implications for
pedagogy.” See esp. Carl H. Klaus, “Essayists on the Essay,” for a cogent discussion
of the history and nature of the essay.
Anderson, Chris. Style as Argument: Contemporary American Nonfiction.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1987. Close readings of Wolfe, Capote, Mailer and
Didion are “an effort to characterize the discursive styles of these writer” (1), but also
argue that nonfiction’s growing prestige “reflects the epistemological skepticism of
the contemporary mind” (3).
Butrym, Alexander J. Essays on the Essay: Redefining the Genre. Athens: U of GA
Press, 1989.
Couser, G. Thomas. “Autopathography: Women, Illness, and Lifewriting.” A/B:
Auto/Biography Studies. 6(1991): 65-75. Discusses Lorde, Barbara D. Webster, and
Nancy Mairs.
Didion, Joan. “On Keeping a Notebook.” In Depth: Essayists for Our Time. 2nd ed.
Ed. By Karl Klaus, Chris Anderson and Rebecca Blevins Faery. Fort Worth:
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993. 165-70. Originally published in Slouching
Toward Bethlehem.
Fakundiny, Lydia, ed. The Art of the Essay. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1991. Intro
contains a good discussion of what the essay is and includes good historical
Hampl, Patricia. “The Need to Say It.” The Writer on Her Work, vol. II. Ed. By Janet
Sternberg. NY: Norton, 1991. Hampl discusses why she writes memoir rather than
Lounsberry, Barbara. The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction.
Contributions to the Study of World Literature 35. NY: Greenwood, 1990. Intro
questions and explains the neglect of nonfiction as literature and defines “literary
nonfiction” in terms of four characteristics: “documentable subject matter chosen
from the real world,” “exhaustive research,” “the scene,” and “fine writing.”
Rygiel, Dennis. “On the Neglect of Twentieth-Century Nonfiction: A Writing
Teacher’s View.” College English 46 (1984): 392-400. Anderson (see above) said
this article sparked his book.
Winterowd, W. Ross. “Rediscovering the Essay.” Journal of Advanced Composition
8 (1988): 146-57.
_________________. The Rhetoric of “Other” Literature. Carbondale: Southern
Illinois UP, 1990. Chaps 1 and 2 provide a detailed definition of rhetorical terms.
Winterowd rejects the exaltation of “imaginative literature” over nonfiction prose.
Inplace of fiction vs. nonfiction opposition, he posits another: presentational
(intuitive/emotive) vs. discursive (informative). The remaining chapters use these
terms to analyze four forms: “the nonfiction novel,” “lyrical prose” essays, “the
confession,” and “the nature meditation.”
Zinsser, William, ed. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1987. Essays by Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, and others.
On Creative Nonfiction:
Berman, Ria. “Creative Nonfiction Writing.” The Writer, Dec. 1997, V. 110, no, 12,
pg. 5(4).
Friedman, Bonnie. Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas
in the Writer’s Life. Harperperennial Library, 1994.
Gerard, Philip. “Creating Discoveries for Creative Nonfiction: Compelling Articles
Begin in Your Answers to Three Questions about Yourself and Your Subject.”
Writer’s Digest, Feb. 1997, v. 77, n. 2, p. 28(4).
Gornick, Vivian. “Why Memoir Now?” (another postmodern phenomenon: more
writers turn to creative nonfiction). The Women’s Review of Books, July 1996, v. 13,
n. 10-11, p. 5(1).
Gutkind, Lee. The Art of Creative Nonfiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of
Reality (Wiley Books for Writers Series). John Wiley and Sons, 1997.
Gutkind, Lee. Ed. The Essayist at Work: Profiles of Creative Nonfiction Writers.
Heinemann, 1998.
Gutkind, Lee. Surviving Crisis: Twenty Prominent Authors Write About Events that
Shaped Their Lives. NY: Tarcher, Putnam, 1997.
Gutkind, Lee, and Christian Gatti. “Writing for Creative Nonfiction” (eds. Discuss
what kind of writing they need for their new journal). The Writer, Aug. 1996, v. 109,
n. 8, p. 27 (2).
Kitchen, Judith. Only the Dance: Essays on Time and Memory. Columbia, SC: Univ.
of SC, 1994.
Kitchen, Judith and Mary Paumier Jones. Eds. In Short: A Collection of Brief
Creative Nonfiction. Norton, 1996.
Lunsford, Andrea. “Creative Nonfiction: What’s in a Name?” Conference of College
Teachers of English Studies, Denton, TX, 1995, 55, 41-48.
Schneider, Allison. “As ‘Creative Nonfiction’ Programs Proliferate, Their Critics
Warn of Trendy Solipsism” (includes related article citing opinions of leading
nonfiction writers on nonfiction writing programs). Chronicle of Higher Education,
Nov. 28, 1997, v. 44, n. 14, p. A12 (3).
On Women’s Autobiographical Writings:
Bataille, Gretchen M. and Sands, Kathleen Mullen. American Indian Women: Telling
Their Lives. Lincoln: Univ. of NE, 1984.
Bateson, Mary Catherine. Composing a Life. N.Y: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989.
Benstock, Shari, ed. The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s
Autobiographical Writings. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina, 1988.
Brodzki, Bella, and Celeste Schenk, eds. Life/Lines: Theorizing Women’s
Autobiography. Ithaca: Cornell, 1988.
Freedman, Diane P. Olivia Frey, and Frances Murphy Zauber, eds. The Intimate
Critique: Autobiographical Literary Criticism. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1993.
Heilburn, Carolyn G. Writing a Woman’s Life. N.Y.: Norton, 1988.
Jelinek, Estelle C. ed. Women’s Autobiography: Essays in Criticism. Bloomington:
Indiana Univ. Press, 1980.
Lionnet, Francoise. Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture. Ithaca:
Cornell, 1989.
Miller, Nancy K. Getting Personal: Feminist Occasions and Other Autobiographical
Acts. N.Y. Routledge, 1991.
Morgan, Janice, and Colette T. Hall, eds. Redefining Autobiography in TwentiethCentury Women’s Fiction: An Essay Collection. N.Y. : Garland, 1991. Essays on
Colette, Lessing, Marie Cardinal, Duras, H.D., Allende, Lispector, Kogawa,
Kingston, Paule Marshall, Nella Larsen, Marie-Claire Blais, Katherine Anne Porter,
Gabrielle Roy, Tatyana Mamonova, Carmen Martin Gaite, Christa Wolf, Israeli
women writers.
Personal Narratives Group. Interpreting Women’s Lives: Feminist Theory and
Personal Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989.
Smith, Sidonie. A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions
of Self-Representation. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1987.
____________. Subjectivity, Identity and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical
Practices in the Twentieth Century. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1993.
________ and Juba Watson, ed. De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in
Women’s Autobiography. Minneapolis: U of M Press, 1992.
Stanton, Donna C., ed. The Female Autograph: Theory and Practice of
Autobiography from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago
P, 1984.
Ward Jouve, Nicole. White Woman Speaks with Forked Tongue: Criticism as
Autobiography. N.Y.: Routledge, 1991. “Nicole Ward Jouve addresses the need for a
more inclusive and exploratory way of writing about women’s lives, women’s issues,
feminism and literature. Working against the grain of current scholarly and feminist
criticism, she advocates the development of a personal critique in which the author
presents her statements and judgments as reflections of her singular, if widely
relevant, experience. Interweaving personal anecdote with critical analysis, Jouve
tackles issues fundamental to literary theory, feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, and
cultural studies.
B. Rationale:
1. Statement of Major Focus and Objective:
Creative nonfiction is a thriving genre with ancient roots. This course will
offer students advanced study in writing and critiquing creative nonfiction and
in further developing a repertoire of artistic strategies. The course may
emphasize subgenres other than women writers, such as nature writing,
memoir, travel writing, etc. It will also provide students with opportunities to
examine the particular challenges facing those working within the genre,
including the ethics of representing “true” material from life history or
observation, the challenges of aesthetic and personal response to writers, and
the task of locating their own work in the shifting definitions and boundaries
of this growing field.
2. How this course contributes to the department curriculum:
This new course will complement the offerings for creative writing as we
currently only offer advanced creative writing courses in poetry and fiction
writing. The fact that this course will focus on contemporary writers, rather
than exclusively explore the historical roots of the genre, makes it distinctive
from the introductory creative nonfiction course offered at the three hundred
level. The comprehensive and detailed knowledge of creative nonfiction will
serve English majors well in terms of developing sophisticated writing and
analytical skills. The course also could be crosslisted with a number of other
departments (women’s studies, nursing if it were to be offered in the subgenre
of illness narratives) which would be of benefit to the department. The course
will also be a useful elective for students who are minoring in writing.
3. Any course which may be dropped if this course is approved:
C. Impact of this course on other departments, programs, majors or minors:
The course does not affect the number of credits required by a major or minor
in any other department.
Financial and Staffing data sheet
Approval Form
Syllabus for English 409
Creative Nonfiction Prose: Women Writers
The Course
Objective: This course is designed to explore the genre of “nonfiction prose” through
reading works of contemporary women writers and feminist theory. We will write a
series of narratives that incorporate literary fiction techniques, including scene setting,
storytelling, dialogue, and descriptive language. Along the way, you will also have the
opportunity to think, explore, question, search and make meaning through writing your
own essays—to recognize and accept your own authority, as well as familiarize yourself
with and practice a variety of techniques that will allow your own unique voice to
emerge. This course will show you how to take on and succeed in such a challenge,
though the degree to which you do so is largely dependent on your willingness to
experiment, revise, and take on new perspectives.
Requirements: Readings, attendance, class participation.
Texts, Supplies and Costs
The course will use writers from the following list:
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands.
Behar, Ruth. Translated Woman.
Behar, Ruth. The Vulnerable Observer.
Either: Cofer, Judith Ortiz. The Latin Deli. OR Silent Dancing.
Faderman, Lillian. Scotch Verdict.
Lorde, Audre. Zami.
Mairs, Nancy. Remembering the Bone House.
Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Sebold, Alice. Lucky.
Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness.
Register, Cheri. Packinghouse Daughter.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Storyteller.
Slater, Lauren. Welcome to My Country.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.
Hooks, bell Bone Black.
Nonfiction book of your choice, selected from a bibliography of nonfiction books
I’ve provided. You may check out the book from the library or, if you wish,
purchase it.
Writing Requirements: You will write one serious essay of approximately ten pages
that will be revised three times (remember that “serious” can be funny “serious” too.)
This will also entail a five page theoretical introduction.
Your essay must in some way reflect upon our lives, on what it means to be alive
on this earth, an essay that isn’t simply a plot, but that uses language in the same way that
painters use paint, an essay that aims to explore the mystery of the human condition in
some way. You ought to explore our human striving, our failures, our triumphs, our
strengths and weaknesses, our places in society, our relations with others, our confusion,
and our moments of self-knowledge. Your essay ought to read gracefully, intelligently,
and sensibly, with wit, passion and compassion. Everyone, every thing, has a spirit, a
history, a narrative. It is our job to find those narratives, and your job to decide how those
narratives can best be brought to life through “your” language. To do this, we will focus
exhaustively on “voice”--that aspect of language and vision which is like your
fingerprint--recognizably yours and only yours.
Unfortunately, I will have to grade your essay. On a personal level, I don’t believe
in “grading” art--it seems wrong. However, these are my guidelines: I’ll grade your essay
on the basis of its style as well as its content, at the end of the semester, after we have
talked about your work at great lengths, and after you have had a chance to get much
feedback and time to work on various revisions. Spelling, punctuation, sentence structure,
word usage, and general neatness all count, along with the content, at the end of the
semester. An “A” essay is entertaining, interesting, lively, and dramatic. It is ABOUT
something--i.e. it has a deeper, implied, “Truth,” some significance). Its manner we can
believe, and the plot is imaginative without being farfetched. The characters seem real;
they talk and behave in a manner we can believe, and they’re a mixture of good and bad,
the way real people are. The small details are fresh and original. An “A” essay doesn’t
have to succeed totally in what it’s trying to do; but needs to be trying to do something.
The dialogue is crisp and accurately rendered. In all “A” essays, the writing is
mechanically sound--that is, grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage are all in order
(good “mechanics” are like good clothes.) Remember that there is really no formula for
an “A” ; these are just very general guidelines. And there isn’t going to be any one type
of essay that’s an “A” . If it’s well-written and well-developed, I’ll give it an “A.” I’m
interested in everything, so don’t feel that you need to cater to a specific “type” or
“content” to satisfy my ego. To receive an “A” in this class, you need to do more than
simply the minimum quality of work. You’ll need to actively revise and develop your
first drafts, develop your writing style so that it is fluent, vivid, and expressive; take
risks--try something new; come prepared to participate actively in class discussions and
in your groups, thus helping other class members; be lively and real and responsive to
others; ask many questions of yourself and others. The way to do poorly in this class is
to consider yourself above the revision process—that your work is so perfect and
insightful that it needs no revision. No work of art is above revision; learning to revise
and to ask critical questions of yourself and of others is the way to become a better,
more sensitive writer.
I will expect to see turned in to me at least three thoughtful drafts of this essay
throughout the course of the semester; finals of all of these drafts will be included in
a portfolio at the end of the semester: a draft that you turn into your workshop group
that is as good as you can make it—no incomplete essays here! -- a draft significantly
revised after your workshop, and a draft significantly revised after conferencing with me.
Essays that do not reflect this process will not receive quality grades. You cannot get
either an A or a B or even a C without attending to the revision process. Papers that
clearly ignore all workshop and conference comments can expect to receive failing
grades. In other words, at each stage of the game, turn in an essay that is as good as you
can possibly make it. Do not turn in an essay that is not fully realized, whether it be for
your workshop group or for me.
You will also write, along with this essay when you turn it in, a five page analysis of
this piece, placing your work in a context with other writers and paying attention to
aesthetic issues that we will discuss throughout the semester. An annotated
bibliography must accompany this essay when you turn it in, along with a works
cited page. We will discuss what research—and what writing an annotated
bibliography—means throughout the course of this semester. You will submit this
work for possible publication to a journal of your choice at the end of the semester.
We will discuss what that entails.
Please proofread your work before you submit it. Fonts and margins must be of a
reasonable size. The pages must be numbered, double-spaced. Include your name and the
assignment number in the top, right-hand corner. Please also include a title but do not
include a title page.
Presentation Requirements: You will give one, ten minute oral report on the nonfiction
book you’ve selected. I will expect you to come in character as the writer of the book
(which will require some research on your part as to that writer’s life and aim as a
writer—you will need to be prepared for questions after the presentation). Since this is
only ten minutes, you need to know exactly what you want to say, and you need to say it
succinctly. Discuss the book in terms of the literary nonfiction techniques we have been
exploring in class. Hand out a sample passage that illustrates your point. Summarize
the book for your classmates. Then analyze the text. Here are some starting points: (but
please don’t limit yourself to those): Analyze the writer’s perspective, voice and word
choices. Give evidence. What was interesting or different about the writing? Give
evidence to support your points. Describe the writer’s style and how it lends itself to the
subject matter (or not). Give examples. What themes does the writer tackle? Give
examples. What impressed you most about the work? The least? Why? Give examples.
Analyze. How does this work compare to others we have been reading in class? Give
examples and analyze. Would you recommend this book to your classmates? Why or why
not? Rehearse your presentation before hand so that it is smooth and polished and you
know exactly what you want to say—and why you want to say it. We will sign up for
these in class throughout the semester. You will turn in a five page written analysis of
that writer’s work after your presentation.
Reading Journals: You will respond to each text that we read with a thoughtful,
approximately two page response. A journal is not a diary.
Workshop requirements: An important component of learning about the craft of writing
will be the workshop. While you are critiquing and editing the work of your peers you are
also honing your own skills and understanding of craft. We’ll talk more about proper
workshop procedures in class.
You will be required to make and distribute copies of your work at the beginning of each
class on the date on which it is due. All students are expected to contribute their
comments during critique sessions and your grade at the end of the semester will reflect
your participation. You will respond to drafts carefully and considerately, discussing it
thoroughly in the group and offering written comments after the workshop is finished. I
expect you to offer serious advice and encouragement to the other writers but I also
expect honest and pertinent criticism. It is especially important that you try to remain
open to criticism and not “shut yourself off” because you are feeling misunderstood as a
writer. You don’t have to follow all the advice that the workshop offers but if you ignore
all of it there is something wrong.
Final Exam: Your final exam will be an approximately ten page craft essay. You will set
out to research and write a paper about creative nonfiction. Possible subjects include: an
analysis of some published work of creative nonfiction, the historical roots of the genre,
the conventions of a subgenre, or ethical issues. You should let me know what you
choose to examine by midterm. I will expect a bibliography to accompany this essay.
Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. You can’t participate in class if you’re not here
and it is not possible to make up the classes that you miss. After three absences, I will
deduct half a letter grade. According to university policy, missing 20% of class results in
automatic failure. I strongly recommend that you notify me in advance if you miss a
class. This will enable you to take care of class work in advance. Exceptions to absences
would include university sponsored events and of course a verified medical excuse and
death in the family. Registration does not count. If you are more than ten minutes late to
class you will be counted absent.
Student Assistance: If you need extra help understanding the material or going over
your writing, please feel free to contact me at any time. In addition, Winona State
University will make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Students
should also seek out assistance from the Writing Center on the third floor of Minne Hall.
Etiquette: Promoting a positive atmosphere in our class is especially important in
helping you achieve your fullest potential as writers. Remember to be respectful and
considerate of everyone in class, particularly when offering comments on essays. This
does not mean simply beaming and saying, “Gee, you’re the best writer in the entire
universe.” It means taking the work seriously. That means offering praise when praise is
due, and offering pertinent, helpful criticism when necessary. Please turn off cell phones
or pagers and step out of the classroom to deal with any emergencies. Also remember that
we are here to learn—and that means that we take each other’s writing seriously and that
we open ourselves up to considering other perspectives and opinions. Conflict can, of
course, be a means of growth. No firearms or other weapons are allowed in the
Essay (including revisions, critical introduction and annotated bibliography) 40%
Presentation: 20%
Workshop participation and Great River Reading Series Write-Up 10%
Final Exam: 30%
Ethics: Plagiarizing is unacceptable and may result in failure of the course.
Disclaimer: I may announce changes to these assignments and the course schedule
during the semester, depending on the needs of the class.
Don’t Wait for the Muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.
--Barbara Kingsolver
Visiting Writer’s Series Readings (Great River Reading): (1 out of three to attend)
You are required to attend a reading by one of the visiting writers this semester. Write
approximately 500 words on what you thought of the reading. Who was the writer? What
did she read? What was the experience like? This 500 word analysis should be turned the
class period immediately after the reading. (If the reading is on Monday, turn it in on
Wednesday. If the reading is on Tuesday, turn it in on Wednesday.) You may of course
attend as many of the reading series as you want—and I would encourage you to do so.
If you cannot make the reading, check with the Winona Arts Center to see if they have
any readings scheduled for the fall, or check with other departments. Or go to another
one of the readings. Talk to me.
I do not accept paper assignments via email due to potential viruses.
I hope that it will become clear to you as you go through the course that hard work,
enthusiasm, perseverance, and good humor will play a role in success in this class.
Keep a writing notebook by your bed and make a note of ideas, dreams, random
thoughts, and overheard pieces of conversation. Don’t wait until tomorrow to write down
what’s on your mind. And keep every scrap of paper that you write on.
As you read the selections for the course, try to imagine what the action looks
like--try to see it as though it were a movie you were running for yourself inside your
head. That’s the best, most constructive way to read like a writer. Do that, too, as you
write your own essays: act them out in your mind, hear the dialogue (say it aloud, even if
you think you’re losing your mind.) Above all, as you read and write the nonfiction for
this course, have as much fun as possible. If the work starts to feel like torture, there’s
definitely something wrong.
If in doubt about any of the above, please call or see me. Syllabi are often
daunting and authoritative. That is not the kind of teacher I am. Some of the information
you just read may sound a bit overwhelming. I will give you more information as time
goes by. I trust that you will find this course both rewarding and fun. Most of all, relax. I
expect you to work hard, but not to tear your hair out or stand on the top of tall buildings
holding a jug of kerosene, threatening to burn the campus down. If you stress out about
anything involving this class, see me. I look forward to working with all of you on an
individual basis.
Tentative Weekly Schedule
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split
open.” –Muriel Rukeyser, “Kathe Kollwitz”
The course will be taught in a workshop fashion. Each week we will read, respond to the
reading, and discuss an issue of craft, and then alternate with workshopping student
1st week. Introduction to the course and each other
2nd week. Criticism/ theory on creative nonfiction. Discussion of annotated
3rd week. Lorde. Reading Journal Due.
4rth week. Silko. Reading journal due.
5th week. Williams. Reading journal due.
6th week. Workshop essay number one.
7th week. Cofer. Reading journal due.
8th week. Book presentations.
9th week. Workshop 2nd draft of essay number one. Turn in reading journal.
10th week. Mairs. Reading journal due.
11th week. Faderman. Reading journal due.
12th week. Workshop third draft of essay number one.
13th week. More book presentations.
14th week. Register. Reading journal due.
15th week. Wrap-up.
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