English 100NF - Winter, 2016

Creative Writing: Nonfiction

Class Information

Instructor: Liontas, Annie
Time: TR 1:40-3:00
Location: 308 Voorhies


    First and foremost, we will concern ourselves with the authorial stance of the lived experience. In our attempt to build intimacy with the reader, we will think less about being expressive and more about being communicative, engaging in a contract that Phillip Lopate likens to a friendship that “confides everything from gossip to wisdom” and is “based on identification, understanding, testiness, and companionship.” Genres explored include memoir, the personal (political) essay, literary journalism, and narrative that intentionally (sometimes dangerously) straddles the worlds of fiction and nonfiction.

    Because the best literary nonfiction depends on the same principles as great fiction—character development, voice, dialogue, fluid scene construction, tension, structure—we will consider specific areas of craft. We will examine the intersection of imagination and reality, emotional truth versus literal truth, and the personal and political self. Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir offers topics for consideration such as Blind Spots and False Selves; these we will apply to our own work, as well as to master writers discussed in class, such as Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Malcolm X, Tobias Wolff, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Joy Williams, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, and Cheryl Strayed.

    Students will develop a series of essays or concentrate on a memoir-in-progress. Students may be asked to lead discussions on readings, as well as write a craft paper that critically considers a technique or approach relevant to their own work. There will be readings assigned throughout the quarter, in addition to the books listed, as well as writing exercises meant to deepen understanding of craft. The course will introduce editing strategies, as significant revision is required.




    Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
    The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
    We the Animals, Justin Torres
    Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates