Creative Non-Fiction

Writers are oft tasked to “write what you know.” Presumably, we know ourselves well. Yet, the act of personal essay writing through memoir, autobiography, and that most beloved of assignments, the college essay frequently tests that assumption. What do we truly know of ourselves? How much is yet to be discovered, whether one is a senior contemplating their college years or a senior contemplating their twilight years? And how do we explain it to others when we can be such mysteries to those who know us best, even, at times, to ourselves?

This course interrogates the first person narrative voice as both technical exercise and creative discovery. Through analysis of non-fiction text selections ranging from Sei Shonagon’s 10th c. Pillow Book to more contemporary essay selections by writers such as David Sedaris and from consideration of Montaigne’s 16th c. popularization of the essay to more contemporary works, the course examines the form of the personal narrative.

A secondary goal of this module is to offer clear instruction and guidance for the development of a student’s college essay as well as structured space in which to write it. Students work on topic generation, learn about the “dos” and “don’ts” of this assignment, and consider a range of prompts, including those for supplemental essays. Additionally, they evaluate sample essays and learn the stylistic strategies and gambits that best suit their own work and narrative voice. Most importantly, they concentrate on drafting and the revision process to produce a polished essay, one ready for submission in the application process.

(This course will not be offered in 2023-24.)

Min-Max Credit Hours: 1.0-1.0