/ Graduate Catalogue / Writing / 2014-2015

Nonfiction Workshop


The first meeting of this workshop will consist of, I hope, a spirited and thought-provoking discussion of the aesthetics and ethics of nonfiction writing. Topics that might come up are: Is it possible to write about other people without exploiting them? What is the difference between factual and essential truth? What is the main effect that I want my writing to have on my reader? During the second class, we will discuss three very differently structured essays with the goal of establishing a common set of concepts and terms that will be useful in the discussion of student writing. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to workshops, during which students will be encouraged to make specific and honest remarks (no one is ever helped by false praise), while always being considerate of the writer’s feelings and respectful of the writer’s freedom to defy convention. Workshops will involve detailed discussion of technical matters (point of view, metaphor, pacing, etc.) but never to the point where we lose track of bigger issues pertaining to the role that writing plays in the lives of readers and writers—and in society as a whole. Ideally, by the end of the semester students will have a fairly clear idea of what works best in their own writing and will have made significant steps toward working out their personal aesthetics.