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CNF 97 — Writing Memoir: The Palace of Memory

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Saturday and Sunday
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Apr 6—Apr 7
Time: 10:00 am—4:00 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Mar 30
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $380
Instructor(s): Marisa Handler
Limit: 21
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Saturday and Sunday
10:00 am—4:00 pm (PT)
Apr 6—Apr 7
2 days
Refund Date
Mar 30
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Marisa Handler
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Memory is an incredibly rich wellspring of material, and writing is an unrivaled means of exploring it. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote: “I come to fields and vast palaces of memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images.” He referred to the “memory palace” used by orators of ancient Rome as a mnemonic device for writing speeches. In this course, we will use the memory palace as a metaphor to explore the riches of our own memories. What does your memory palace look like? What waltzes in the ballroom, simmers in the kitchen, huddles in the attic?

Using guided exercises and prompts, we will write our way into the key moments of our lives. We’ll discuss how to locate memories that wield particular power in the telling and explore strategies for crafting them into captivating narratives. This class will emphasize exploration and discovery, using personal histories as material. Each student will write a short piece of memoir—an essay or prose poem—to be workshopped. We will read excerpts or essays by Richard Rodriguez, Sara Suleri, Anne Carson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Joan Didion, and David Foster Wallace. You will emerge with pages of new work, fresh angles on some of your most powerful experiences, and a better understanding of how to effectively write about these moments.


Marisa Handler is the author of the memoir Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist, which received a Nautilus Gold Award. Her essays, fiction, journalism, and poetry have appeared in The Sun, Orion, Salon, Witness, Kosmos, and 580 Split. Handler received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and numerous fellowships in creative writing, including a Fulbright and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, Tell It Slant, 3rd edition (ISBN 978-1260454598)