Domenica Ruta

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

BA, Oberlin College. MFA, University of Texas-Austin, Michener Center for Writers. Author of With or Without You, a memoir published in 2013. Her short fiction has appeared in Epoch and Indiana Review. SLC, 2017–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Writing

Creative Nonfiction: Beyond the Truth

Open , Seminar—Fall

Writers and readers of creative nonfiction constantly wrestle with questions about truth: How much of this story is perfectly, purely true? Is there any such thing as perfect truth? What is the writer’s responsibility to the truth? What I’d like to do in this class is move beyond these debates and ask: What if we assume what we are writing and reading under this (unnecessarily?) dubious genre listing is true? Or true enough? What if we decide, as an experiment for this semester, that it actually doesn’t matter what is true/based-on-truth and what isn’t in a work of nonfiction? What kind of questions could we ask then, and what do we have to learn from them? In this course, we will examine a few book-length works of creative nonfiction (Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, Miranda July’s It Chooses You)—as well as selected stories and excerpts from James McBride, David Sedaris, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Maggie Nelson, Phoebe Robinson, and Rob Delaney—with a focus on the craft of storytelling and examining the creative choices that each author makes and does not make. Student groups will do informal presentations of each author/book to provide temporal/cultural context; then we will let the discussion unfold from there. We will also do short, in-class exercises, as well class discussion of longer student work, in a supportive spirit that seeks to evaluate a story on its own terms. Individual conferences will be spent preparing, honing, and discussing student essays before and after they are presented to the class. By the end of the course, students should have a substantial portfolio of short and long pieces, a keener editorial eye, and a more comfortable relationship with truth and storytelling.

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