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CNF 122 W — Creative Nonfiction: Finding the Universal in the Particular

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Sep 1
Refund Deadline: Jun 29
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Rachel Howard
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jun 26—Sep 1
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 29
3 Units
Rachel Howard
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Memoir, essay, or first-person reportage—all creative nonfiction is rooted in a daily habit of noticing the “beloved particulars,” then digging inward to discover how those particulars can evoke what we might risk calling “the universal”—an archetypal experience that almost any reader can relate to. In this highly exploratory course, we will play with nonfiction forms ranging from the lyric to the narrative. Voice, point of view, structure, form—all of the essential, recurring terms of the writing life will be introduced as we discuss works by such writers as Richard Rodriguez, Grace Paley, Joan Didion, and Amy Tan. We will complete and post short weekly assignments for feedback, and each student will also draft and workshop a longer piece of writing. We will practice really seeing, being open and receptive (“sneaking under the fence of interpretation,” as Deborah Eisenberg called it), and dropping defenses, especially those we hide from ourselves, to find truths that can show us the transcendent in the particular. After all, as Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Wouldn’t it be better for you to discover a meaning in what you write than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you.”


Rachel Howard is the author of a memoir about her father’s unsolved murder, The Lost Night, and a novel, The Risk of Us. Her personal essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times "Draft" series, The Los Angeles Review of Books, StoryQuarterly, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She received an MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Alice LaPlante, The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing (ISBN 978-0393337082)
(Required) Juditch Kitchen(Ed.), Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction (ISBN 978-0393326000)