Introduction to Nonfiction: The Essay
“Essay: theater of the brain” [David Shields]
Office: 116 Goldstein | Hours: MWF 12.30-1.30; also by appointment
All course information (including assignment schedule) available at course blog: https://americanautobiography.wordpress.com/(bookmark and use often)
We study the essay, the oldest and arguably most significant form of nonfiction. As you will see, this is not necessarily the “essay” you were asked (or forced) to write in earlier schooling. Essayists, from Montaigne and Emerson to contemporary writers of what’s called creative nonfiction have viewed this literary form not as punishment so much as performance and experiment. “Essay is a verb, not just a noun,” the contemporary essayist John D’Agata notes, “essaying is a process.” We will explore that process as both readers and writers of essays across three parts of the course, moving us from classic to contemporary examples, and from critical perspectives on the essay to creative performance of our own essaying. Part One: The Philosophy of the Essay—origins and principles of the form. Part Two: The Rhetoric of the Essay—the essay in series and longer form, used to argue, expose, explore. Part Three: The Poetics of the Essay—innovations of the essay in recent forms of “creative nonfiction,” including multimedia. The course will culminate with a substantial essay that you develop and prepare for actual publication.
In focusing both creatively and critically on the craft of nonfiction, specifically the essay form, this course has four primary learning objectives that correlate with learning goals of the English department and the goals for a Writing Intensive course.
- Literary History: Students understand the conventions of at least one literary genre (fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction)
- Critical Reading: Students analyze texts critically using literary terminology
- Rhetorical Knowledge: Students make effective use of revision and editing strategies in producing writing.
- W2 Requirement (Process of Writing) goals:
- Critical Thinking: Students develop the ability to raise questions and identify problems related to particular subjects or situations and to make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research.
- Writing Process: Students develop the ability to use appropriate strategies for generating, developing, composing, and revising writing and research.
- Rhetorical Knowledge: Students develop the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and disciplinary contexts in creating and comprehending texts.
- Goal 4: Knowledge of Conventions: Students develop an awareness of the formal guidelines, ranging from matters of grammar and style to conventions of research and documentation that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate to writing in a particular discipline or context.
Available at the College Bookstore.
Classic and Contemporary Essays: selections provided to students in pdf or online throughout semester
D’Agata, The Lifespan of a Fact
Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
Emerson, Selected Essays (available online)
Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted
Moore, Crafting the Personal Essay
Savoy, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
Shields, Reality Hunger
Course Expectations and Experiences:
I will require that you keep some form of a reader’s/writer’s journal as a medium for you to engage in the reading, writing, and thinking more creatively. I will expect you to have some version of the journal for use in class for discussion as well as various writing workshops we will have focusing on philosophy, rhetoric, and poetics of the essay; you should also have it available whenever we conference (so that you can tell and show me what you have been thinking about recently). Your blogging assignment can emerge from, and reiterate, what is in your journal.
Three main projects, described on the course blog under “Writing Projects.” Since this course counts for the W2 writing requirement, we will be giving attention to writing process (developing ideas, revision, editing) in completing these projects. In addition, you will have an ongoing semi-formal writing assignment: blogging in response to reading, described under “Blogging” on the home page.
Late Policy: Writing projects turned in late, without prior discussion with me, will lose credit (approximately half-grade per day). No project will be accepted more than one week late. As always, communication with me in advance regarding any difficulties you are encountering is the best way to go.
I expect active and engaged participation in discussions of our readings and in the various field study experiments we will do—including getting outside and observing, exploring, tracking the environment. I will sometimes present ideas and focal points for discussion—but don’t expect a lecture course. If you don’t participate, class time will be far too silent. Your participation will be assessed, along with attendance, as part of your overall grade. I will use as a basic rubric for that assessment:
90-100: very strong to excellent; thorough engagement in all aspects of course; exceeds expectations.
80-89: strong engagement in all aspects; meets expectations.
70-79: average to sufficient, room to improve engagement; below expectations.
60-69: weak to average; need to improve engagement in most areas; significantly below expectations
below 60: failing
Attendance Policy: Since participation counts in this course (and in learning), your attendance matters. Every student is granted up to two absences during the semester for whatever reason. Three or more absences (excused or unexcused) will begin to affect your final participation grade (approximately a half-grade per absence). Any student missing more than 9 classes during the semester should not expect to pass. I am flexible and reasonable (was once a student, have kids, get sick, etc)—so communicate with me regarding your attendance. But be aware that I consider it very important for a course such as this.
Technology Policy: Good participation requires a learning environment where attention and invention are possible. I am interested in the inventiveness of writing technologies and will encourage you to explore them with me. Having a laptop or other technologies in class can be productive if you can use it to attend to our focus, but not if you are distracted easily by “the restless, grazing behavior of clicking and scrolling” (to cite the essayist Sven Birkerts). Since such clicking distracts me, I will expect you to use technology thoughtfully. Here are my guidelines for thoughtful use:
- No cell phones in class. I’m not interested in them; sorry. I recommend leaving it in your room or car or somewhere else, not on you. However, if that’s not possible, then the cell phone must be put away in a bag when you enter; it may not be left on the table/desk or anywhere visible. It must also be shut off.
- No laptops out or open in class unless I have (in advance on the assignment page) invited you to use them. On days when a reading assignment is electronic (eg. a pdf) or we are workshopping a draft that you have submitted to Canvas, then I will invite laptop use. However, even on those days, the laptop will also be closed at times when we are not directly using them. For anyone who is in need of the use of a laptop for notes, rather than handwriting in a notebook, please come talk with me to make your case and make arrangements.
- Notebook and Pen and Book/Text assigned for class that day must be out and ready for use. These are also technologies and we will use them every class as a basis for discussion and further reading and argumentation.
I will give a friendly reminder only once if there is a violation of any of these (cell phone away, put laptop away, get your book out). After that the participation grade will be affected and a conference will be advised.
I plan to give you a range of feedback and information about your progress and learning—in class, in conferences, on informal assignments and my evaluations of your formal writing projects. I will also ask for your feedback (don’t be alarmed) at various points in a class or a conference. I always want to know what questions you have, about the course as well as your learning, and will frequently ask you for your questions. A great way to demonstrate engagement and learning, especially with a difficult or challenging text or topic, is to ask a question about what one doesn’t understand. I value questions as a rich form of communication—in fact, many of our discussions will begin and end with exploring and updating the kinds of questions you have.
Another valuable resource for communication and experimentation: the Writing Center (106 Goldstein). We will at times make use of the WC’s talent and services as a class; I encourage you to do so individually as well, to discuss ideas, workshop a draft, follow up on a grammatical or rhetorical issue of interest to you and your progress as a writer, begin to map out ideas for your first book or screenplay. Enough to say, I wish I had a Writing Center when I was an undergraduate.
I encourage any student who has concerns or questions about learning differences, documented or not, to speak further with me as well as to consult Washington College’s Office of Academic Skills (second floor of the library). We can explore arrangements that will support your learning experience in the course.
Washington College has the following policy regarding academic integrity and plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined by the Honor Code as “willfully presenting the language, ideas, or thoughts of another person as one’s original work.” Turning in someone else’s work as your own is obviously plagiarism. Quoting or paraphrasing someone else’s words or ideas without properly citing your source is also plagiarism. If you ever have any question at all about whether you are using a source correctly, ask me about it to make sure. Submitting a paper for this class that contains all or part of a paper that you submitted in another class, without the permission of both professors involved, is also a violation of the honor code. A student found guilty of plagiarism may fail the assignment or the course, and may be referred to the Honor Board for further adjudication. Whenever you hand in a paper for this course, you must include in your essay a statement that your work has been completed in compliance with the Honor Code. Washington College has contracted with Turnitin.com, a web-based plagiarism prevention service. You may be submitting copies of your writing projects to Turnitin.com.
Integrity suggests wholeness; a synonym would be ecology. Your integrity affects the integrity of the whole learning environment here, in the class (where you are relying upon the response of your peers) and on campus. We will be talking further about the integrity of your writing and the ways that your writing can be inventive without being plagiarized. The point is that I take plagiarism seriously, but as such, also want you to learn and ask questions about it.
I will be assessing your progress and understanding in the course primarily through the blog assignments and writing projects. Each of those will have an evaluation rubric given with the assignment. Assessment is important in learning, as it is in writing; so in addition to my feedback, I will expect you to do some self-assessment and to bring that into your course work and discussions with me whenever we meet for a conference. To give you an approximation of the various kinds of assignments and their value in the overall course grade, consider:
Participation (including attendance): 10%
Reading (blog postings, presentations, journal): 25%
Writing Projects: 40%
Final project: 25%
Download Techniques of Creative Nonfiction Spring 2016 Syllabus
Course Title: CWRT 2350-01: Techniques of Creative Non-Fiction
Course Time: Mondays 2-5:40 p.m.
Course Location: Benildus 100/101
Instructor: Julia Goldberg
Office Location: Benildus Hall, Room 219
Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 12:30-2 p.m. or by appointment
Please ensure you communicate with me through your SFUAD email account. Emails from other providers may be blocked and fail to make it through the interwebs.
TEXTBOOKS AND MATERIALS
Tell it Slant, second edition. Miller, Brenda and Paola, Suzanne. McGraw-Hill.
The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, Williford and Martone
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
This course is partially a paper-free class. Weekly assignments, as well as many of the supplementary readings, will be available on:
Please check the website each week to ensure you have the most current weekly assignments.
This class has numerous supplementary readings, most of which will be available on the class website. You are expected to keep up with all readings. Any changes to the readings will be announced in class and be available on the course website.
Mandatory attendance is required for Creative Writing students (there will be a sign-in sheet for attendance at the events).All CWL required event will include a sign-in sheet. Be sure to sign the sign-in sheet to receive credit for attendance. All events are held at 7 p.m. O’Shaughnessy Performance Space in Benildus.
Feb. 23: Kathleen Graber (poet):
March 29: Senior Reading
April 5: Senior Reading
April 12: James Reich and Matt Donovan book release/reading
April 19: Senior Reading
April 26: Senior Reading
May 3: Glyph reading & event
This course provides an overview of the strategies, history, and craft of creative nonfiction. In this course students will write and analyze various types of nonfiction, including, but not limited to, memoir, journalism, the personal essay. The focus will be on developing facility in various forms and mastering fundamental concepts of the genre, including voice, narrative distance, setting, research, structure, and dialogue.
This class will require significant reading and writing assignments, as well as attendance at CWL visiting writer and student readings.
At the conclusion of this course, students will:
* Demonstrate critical examination of literary texts and analysis of craft technique in creative nonfiction
* Gain reflective and critical sense of others’ work on their own creative process
* Demonstrate public speaking skills in articulating analysis of craft
* Engage in constructive critique and editorial feedback, using craft terminology
- Demonstrate active editing and revising of analytical and creative work
There will be four major creative nonfiction writing projects for this class:
- an arts criticism/arts journalism piece
- a personal/reported essay
- There also will be ongoing critical writing assignments as well as in-class creative writing assignments.
- There will be a mid-term craft analysis essay due based on readings in The Touchstone Anthology
- There will be a final paper on The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
Typing/Format of Assignments
- All assignments must be typed, and use the following guidelines:
- Please use the same font throughout the paper: either Times, Ariel or Courier, 12 point
- Leave a one-inch margin on both sides of the paper; justify the left side and leave the right ragged
- One space between words; one space between sentences
- Indent each paragraph with a tab or one-half inch
- Include a title page, double-spaced, with the assignment name, paper title, student name and date
- Follow style specifications for references, which will be discussed in class
- Obvious style exceptions will be made for lyrical essays and other non-comforming writing assignments.
Workshops will be used for the four major creative nonfiction pieces due this semester.
Regarding the workshop environment: Class must be a non-judgmental place where writers can bring their work and ask for help toward improvement of their projects. Due to the nature of non-fiction writing, it is very important that writers feel confident that their work will not be discussed with anyone other than the members of this class. Critiques will be accomplished through the writing workshop critique sheets and in-class discussions. Your critiques of your classmates’ work are an important component of this class and your grade. Workshop materials must be submitted for critique when due in order to participate in the workshop. Workshops will not be rescheduled, and those who fail to participate will be penalized accordingly for mid-term and final grades.
Students are required to provide copies of their work for their workshop groups and for the instructor.
Critique sheets will be distributed for use for evaluation of your peers’ work, and will require evaluation of classmates’ writing according to the craft principles that are the bedrock of this class. With both written and oral critiques, students should take care to objectively evaluate the work, and refrain from unproductive and subjective evaluations.
Copies required: one for the writer whose work has been critiqued; one for the instructor.
CRITICAL WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
The critical writing assignments are designed to apply your growing knowledge of the techniques of creative non-fiction to the course’s reading assignments.
Participation in class discussions and the workshop are mandatory, and will be evaluated as such for mid-term and final grades.
100% class attendance is required and is critically important to faculty and your peers. More than 2 absences can result in a lowering of course grade, and in cases of consistent absences, a failing grade for the course. Tardiness is unacceptable and will also result in a lowering of your final grade. Bottom line: Attend every class in a timely manner.
Late work will be penalized 10 percent per day (with the “late clock” beginning at class time rather than the end of the day), and will only be accepted up to four days after the initial deadline.
Cell phones are explicitly prohibited in this classroom, and their use during class time will not be tolerated.
Students who own cellphones must leave their phones in the designated area at the start of class.
Any student who fails to do so and violates this policy will receive a single cellphone infraction warning. A second infraction will cause the student to be dismissed from the classroom for that class session and to receive both an unexcused absence as well as a reduction in the student’s classroom participation grade.
Subsequent cellphone violations may result in a failing grades for course participation or, if the cell phone use does not cease, the removal of a student from the class and a resulting failing grade for the course.
ACCOMMODATING SPECIAL NEEDS
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Santa Fe University of Art and Design makes every effort to provide appropriate accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Students may receive these accommodations if they contact their professor and register with Charlie Miu, Disability Services, at 505-473-6713 (email@example.com).
Santa Fe University of Art and Design values academic integrity. It is the policy of our university to foster creative and academic work that is both original and based on fundamental principles of academic integrity. If a student’s writing or other creative projects use the work of someone else, that use must be formally acknowledged. When taking information or quotes from other authors and incorporating that material into a writing assignment, students must acknowledge the source and authorship of the material they borrow by properly citing it using Modern Language Association (MLA) standards. Similarly, when students’ creative projects incorporate other artists’ ideas, or any visual, electronic, audio, or other creative content, they must acknowledge and give credit to those artists according to discipline-specific guidelines. It is the responsibility of the student to understand and adhere to this university policy, follow prescribed guidelines, and understand the consequences of violating the policy. Enrollment in this university assumes a commitment to upholding the principles of academic integrity. The complete policy on academic integrity, including penalties for violations of policy and processes for appeal, is available for review in the Student Handbook and Academic Catalog.
Written work in this class must be original; work written or submitted for previous classes or assignments may not be used in this course. Resubmitting work from other classes/ previous assignments is considered a form of plagiarism.
EMERGENCY CLASS CANCELLATION
If an emergency arises in which class must be cancelled, a note will be posted on the classroom door informing students of the cancellation and related information. If a cancellation notice is not posted, students are expected to remain in the classroom until dismissed by a college representative. In the event of severe weather, students should listen to local radio/television announcements for information or check the Santa Fe University website: www.santafeuniversity.edu If the college is open, students are expected to attend class.
Memoir, including revisions: 100 points
Arts Criticism/Arts Journalism for SITE Santa Fe Gallery Guide: 100 points
Reported essay:, including revisions 100 points
Lyric Essay, including revisions: 100 points
Critical Response pieces: 100 points
Critiques and Workshops: 150 points
In-class writing and class discussions: 100 points
Mid-term paper: 100 points
Final paper: 150 points
Total Points for semester: 1,000 points
GRADING SCALE for ASSIGNMENTS
F: 59 OR BELOW
A 100% – 90: ( 900-1,000 points)
B 89% – 80% (800-899 points)
C 79% – 70% (700-799)
D 69% – 60% (600-699 points)
F Below 60% (599 and fewer points)
All assignments are subject to change. Please consult the class website, SFUADCNF.COM regularly to ensure you have the current assignments.
Intro to Class & introduction
Outline of the projects for the semester
In-class writing exercise & reading out loud based on Joan Didion’s “Why I Write.”
Read for class: Tell it Slant : Read Intro, and Part 1 “Unearthing Your Material”, chapters, 1,2,3 & 6: Intro to Memoir
Read “Repeat After Me” by David Sedaris, Touchstone Anthology, page. 443; Read “The Love of My Life” by Cheryl Strayed, Touchstone, page. 500
Bring to class: an example of creative nonfiction written by someone else to read out loud. This should be just a few paragraphs; be prepared to discuss why you respond to this work. If you need ideas, the class website has numerous links to creative nonfiction examples
In-class writing and drafting for memoir piece
Tell it Slant: Read Part 3, Honing Your Craft, Chapters: 13, 14, 15
Read William Zinsser’s “How to Write a Memoir.”
Read “Notes on Frey” by Daniel Nester (links on website)
Read Philip Lopate’s lopate-yourself-as-character (download on website)
Write: First drafts of memoir pieces due in class
Instructions about formatting and number of copies will be reviewed in class.
Remember this is a first draft! You are not expected to be finished, but aim for at least two full pages of typed writing.
Intro to Critique Process and Critique Sheets
Formation of Critique Groups for Memoir Pieces
Bring two copies of your critique sheets for each member of your group: one for the writer, and one for Julia. These count toward your grade in this class.
We will also have an in-class critical writing assignment in response to issues of memoir based on the readings so far this semester.
Revised and final memoir pieces due in class.
Small-group discussions of revisions
Reading out-loud (bring a short (two to three minute excerpt of your final piece to read, either hard copy or on computer)
Preview of personal reported essay assignment/in-class writing assignment
Read for class:
Tell it Slant: Read Part 1, Chapters 6, “Gathering the Threads of History,” Chapter 7, “Writing the Larger World,” Chapter 8, “Using Research to Expand Your Perspective” and David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster” (Touchstone, p. 525)
Read: “The Devil’s Bait” by Leslie Jamison (link on class website)
Read: “Fourth State of Matter” by Joann Beard (Touchstone Anthology, page 1)
Come to class prepared to discuss the elements of each piece, including: structure, voice, and reportage
Assignment: Bring ideas, outline and potential list of sources for personal essay; in-class writing time
Mid-term paper due in class or by email to instructor
Each of you will give a short (five to 10 minute) presentation on your mid-term, which also will be explained prior to class.
Criteria for mid-term paper will be provided separately in class, but all critical work this semester should focus on reading non-fiction critically and assessing the authors’ uses of various craft techniques as discussed throughout the semester.
First drafts of personal essay assignment due in class for critique groups and instructor; discussion by each student of his or her topic with a short excerpt read out loud.
In-class writing assignment will focus on developing further your first drafts
Spring break/no class
In class: Reported personal essay workshop; critiques due in class for Julia and critique group members
Read for class: “Autopsy Report” by Lia Purpura (Touchstone Anthology, p. 405) and “Watching the Animals” by Richard Rhodes, (Touchstone, page 411).
Read in Tell It Slant: “Chapter 5, Writing the Arts”
Read: “Inventing Peace” by Lawrence Weschler (handout); read Pultizer prize winners in criticism (specific links on the class website)
In-class arts writing assignment
Final revised personal/reported essay due in class
Class visit by Joanne Lefrak, director of education and engagement at SITE Santa Fe
Read: SITE materials as provided prior to class
Prepare at least one class for Joanne as part of her visit and in-class participation/discussion
Class Field trip to SITE Santa Fe. We will leave as a group from class. Please bring: writing materials to take notes.
Bring first drafts of SITE Santa Fe pieces; criteria will be discussed prior to class. You will not have full-class workshops but will instead have peer-to-peer and instruction review.
We will also begin working on the Lyric Essay
Read: Tell it Slant: Read chapter 10. “Lyric Essay”; additional materials on the lyric essay will be made available on the website and as handouts, including:
Read: (links on class website):
“On the Lyric Essay” by Ben Marcus
“Seneca Review debuts The Lyric Essay”
“The Pain Scale” by Eula Biss (Touchstone, p. 28)
“Mr. Plimpton’s Revenge” by Dinty Moore (google maps essay on website)
“Michael Martone’s Leftover Water” by Patrick Madden (Normal School) (website download)
First draft lyric essays due in class for critique groups and instructor; In-class critical writing and discussion regarding the lyric essay and the pieces read previously on the topic
Workshop of Lyric essays
Lecture and seminar discussion of The Journalist and the Murderer/ journalism ethics/Jeffrey MacDonald/Joe McGinnis lawsuit in advance of final paper
May 9: finals week. Final papers are due no later than 5 p.m.