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CNF 81 W — Personal Essay Writing: From the Intimate to the Universal

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 9
Refund Deadline: Sep 29
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Rebecca Schuman
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class the week of November 21
Flex Online(About Formats)
Sep 26—Dec 9
10 weeks
Refund Date
Sep 29
3 Units
Rebecca Schuman
Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class the week of November 21
If you’re a person, then congratulations—you have a spectacular personal essay inside you, waiting to be written. A personal essay allows every writer to focus on a specific set of experiences, moments in time, or personality qualities—and then transform them into a highly revealing, highly publishable work of art that unspools universal truths about culture and humanity at the same time it provides an intimate glimpse into the author’s life and truth. In this course, students will have the choice of crafting a personal essay from scratch or bringing in a working draft. We will read and discuss numerous examples by masters of the craft (including Samantha Irby, Roxane Gay, Rosecrans Baldwin, and David Sedaris), writing in a range of tones and on a range of topics. In small-group workshops—and with weekly instructor feedback—students will sharpen voices, firm up timelines, explore hybrid forms (such as cultural, historical, political, or literary criticism), and learn about the pitching and submission process. At the end of the course, students will have in hand a polished personal essay and pitch letter, ready for submission to publications.


Rebecca Schuman is the author of the comic memoir Schadenfreude, A Love Story, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, a People pick of the week, a Hudson Booksellers Best Book of 2017, and a Fodor’s Holiday Gift Guide selection. Her essays have been published by Slate, Guernica, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Literary Hub, Longreads, Quartz, and elsewhere. She received an MFA in writing from The New School and a PhD in German literature from UC Irvine.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.