Clifford Thompson

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

BA, Oberlin College. Essayist and creative nonfiction writer; author of the collection Love for Sale and Other Essays and the memoir Twin of Blackness, as well as essays/articles published in magazines, journals, and anthologies. Recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award. SLC, 2016–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Writing

Nonfiction Workshop: The World and You

Open , Seminar—Fall

This workshop will be divided into three units, each of which will involve reading published essays and writing our own. In the first, called PLACE, we will read and write essays about authors’ relationships to particular places—less travelogues than investigations of the dynamic between the person and the place. Examples of published essays that we will read for this unit are “Stranger in the Village” by James Baldwin and Seymour Krim’s writing on London. The second unit, DEMONS, will focus on writers’ personal challenges—from depression, as in William Stryon’s very short book, Darkness Visible, to migraines, the subject of Joan Didion’s essay “In Bed.” For the final unit, CRITICAL SURVEY, we will read and write critical takes on works or figures in particular fields; examples: James Agee’s essay, “Comedy’s Greatest Era,” about silent films; Toni Morrison’s very short book, Playing in the Dark, about the influence of blacks on early white American literature; and Norman Mailer’s Superman Comes to the Supermarket, about John F. Kennedy and other politicians present at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

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Previous Courses

Forms of the Personal Essay

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, students will read and discuss published essays that fall into three categories: "People You Know," in which writers evoke figures from their lives; "Trouble," or essays that describe predicaments that the writers faced; and "The Personal in the Journalistic," or works that combine discussion of the writers' personal lives with discussions of well-known outside subjects (e.g., a famous movie or 9/11). The writers whose published essays we will read include James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Jo Ann Beard, George Saunders, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Students will turn in personal essays, at least 1,500 words in length, related to each topic. In addition, each week at least two students will have pieces workshopped. (Workshopped pieces do not have to fit in any of the three categories.) Finally, each week students will participate in an in-class exercise.

Faculty

Reading and Writing Personal Essays

Open , Seminar—Spring

In this course, students will read and discuss both published essays and student work. With regard to student essays, the emphasis will be on constructive criticism—critiques that are respectful but honest and that attempt to get to the heart of how the work can be improved. The published essays fall into three categories: "People You Know," in which writers evoke figures from their lives; "Trouble," or essays that describe predicaments the writers faced; and "The Personal in the Journalistic," or works that combine discussion of the writers' personal lives with discussions of well-known outside subjects (e.g., a famous movie or 9/11). The writers whose published essays we will read include Jonathan Lethem, Alice Walker, David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, and Maxine Hong Kingston. For each of the three categories, students will turn in one personal essay of at least 1,500 words in length. In addition, each week at least two students will have pieces workshopped. (Workshopped pieces do not have to fit in any of the three categories; but those, too, should be at least 1,500 words long.) Finally, each week students will participate in an in-class exercise.​

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop: Forms of the Personal Essay

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, students will read and discuss published essays that fall into three categories: "People You Know," in which writers evoke figures from their lives; "Trouble," or essays that describe predicaments the writers faced; and "The Personal in the Journalistic," or works that combine discussion of the writers' personal lives with discussions of well-known outside subjects (e.g., a famous movie or 9/11). The writers whose published essays we will read include James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Jo Ann Beard, George Saunders, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Students will turn in personal essays, at least 1,500 words in length, related to each topic. In addition, each week at least two students will have pieces workshopped. (Workshopped pieces do not have to fit in any of the three categories.) Finally, each week students will participate in an in-class exercise.

Faculty