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CNF 60 W — You Must Change Your Life: Essays That Matter and How to Write Them

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Sep 1
Drop Deadline: Jul 4
Units: 3
Tuition: $850
Instructor(s): Joshua Rivkin
Limit: 17
Jun 26—Sep 1
10 weeks
Drop By
Jul 4
3 Units
Joshua Rivkin
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, after looking at the torso of Apollo, wrote this famous line, a command to himself and the reader: “You must change your life.” This course is about reading and writing essays that make the reader want to change their life. We will start by reading a wide variety of essays by such authors as George Orwell, Joan Didion, Brian Blanchfield, and others. We will consider both more traditional personal essays, as well as lyric and experimental forms, asking why some essays move us profoundly while others we forget. We will use these older and contemporary essays as models for dynamic shorter writing exercises. By looking at scene development, persona, and character, as well as other craft aspects of creative nonfiction, students will develop their ability to write great essays. In the second part of the course, students will use these shorter exercises to craft a longer essay or chapter for workshop by their peers. The course will be a great opportunity to receive honest and constructive feedback. Students will gain confidence in their writing and lots of new skills and techniques to take their writing to the next level.

Although the time commitment for an online writing course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to gain substantial benefit from the course.

Joshua Rivkin, Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Joshua Rivkin’s work appears regularly in The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, and The Southern Review. He has taught literature and creative writing at the University of Houston, Stanford, and USC. He received a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a Fulbright fellowship to Italy, and a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation to conduct research for his first book of nonfiction, CHALK: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, which is forthcoming. Rivkin received a PhD in literature and creative writing from USC.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Lex Williford and Michael Martone, Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, Any (ISBN 1416531742)
(Required) Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative (ISBN 0374528586)
(Recommended) Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, Tell It Slant, Any (ISBN 0071781773)