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CNF 09 — Writing the Memoir: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 4—Jun 6
Time: 6:30—9:20 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 17
Units: 3
Tuition: $650
Instructor(s): John W. Evans
Limit: 21
On-campus course
6:30—9:20 pm
Apr 4—Jun 6
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 17
3 Units
John W. Evans
In this course, we will practice the art and craft of writing memoir: works of prose inspired by the memory of personal experiences and history. Since Augustine published his Confessions around 1,600 years ago, the memoir as a literary genre has undertaken a dizzying array of forms, styles, content, and reader expectations. From spiritual salvation to secular redemption, egalitarian bonhomie to Freudian taboo, memoirists have negotiated new expectations about how best to project their reality onto the page. We will make a fresh twist in our study of memoir by imitating many diverse historical models of the genre, as well as their contemporary admirers. We will read works of memoir by Augustine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Vera Brittain, Langston Hughes, Patricia Hampl, Mary McCarthy, James Baldwin, Tim O’Brien, Joan Didion, Eavan Boland, Tobias Wolff, Kate Braestrup, Annie Dillard, and Cynthia Ozick. All students will have the opportunity to present for workshop two shorter writing sketches, and also one longer draft of a memoir chapter or essay. About half of our class time will be devoted to the discussion of student work. The course will address issues ranging from how we select and write about events from our personal lives, to the ethical obligations of memoirists. Writers at all levels of experience and comfort with creative writing are welcome. Energetic and committed participation is a must.

John W. Evans, Draper Lecturer of Creative Nonfiction and Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

John W. Evans is the author of three books. His latest, Should I Still Wish: A Memoir, was selected for the American Lives series. Young Widower: A Memoir won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize and a Foreword Reviews Indies Prize. The Consolations: Poems was named the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Best Poetry Book. His work has appeared in Slate, The Missouri Review, Boston Review, ZYZZYVA, Poets & Writers, and The Best American Essays, and he is the author of the chapbooks No Season and Zugzwang.

Textbooks for this course:

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