Creative Nonfiction 135.302/Settling on a Syllabus

Monday, December 27, 2010

One writes a course description months ahead of teaching the course itself, and in the meantime, one inevitably reads deeper, thinks harder, disproves former standing theories, and reassesses writers they once loved.  At least that's how it is for me.

Yesterday and today, then, I'm studying the course description below and thinking about how I'll meld what seems pulsing and essential right now with the promises I've already made.  I have an idea about a particular Joan Didion essay, and I'm going to kick things off with that.  I'm going to insist on some Ander Monson and Carl Klaus to further set the stage. I'll bring some fiction in, and some poetry, too, so that I and my fifteen students might think out loud about wavering edges—about the nicks and tucks that are nonfiction and the elaborations that are not. 

I never teach to deliver what I know (what fun would that be, for any of us?, and besides, who really knows what?).  I teach for the conversations that erupt, for the work that might emerge, for the deep delve that is yearning and process. I teach because the possibilities are rich, and because there are no barricades within a classroom.

We’ll be asking questions throughout this section of Creative Nonfiction, and we’ll be writing and reading our way toward answers: What do we owe our writing, and what does it owe us? What is the role of imagination in memoir? How is the persona of our nonfiction different from the person we know ourselves to be, and how different should it be? How important is it, really, to distinguish between story and situation? We’ll be provoked and inspired by the work of such authors as Patricia Hampl, Lia Purpura, Joan Didion, Julian Barnes, Natalie Goldberg, Grace Paley, William Fiennes, Michael Ondaatje, Vivian Gornick, and Terrence Des Pres. We’ll workshop essays, memoirs, and profiles.


Beth F said...

Bet it's a great class. I kind of miss teaching, but not enough to change jobs. Hope you have a class of curious, ready-to-learn students.

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