What makes a personal essay feel so much bigger than the individual? What is the difference between writing that is merely confessional and writing that captivates, questions, and transforms? How do we tell compelling true stories about ourselves while probing the limits of our knowledge, the gaps in our memories, the stories that we don’t yet know how to tell? Writing a personal essay is not only a process of self-discovery—it is also the work of becoming the person capable of writing the essay.
In this course, we learn to write true stories about ourselves, the cultural artifacts and places we care about, the identities we hold in relation to power, and the ways our experiences change us forever. With the goal of producing up to three compelling personal essays, we explore the process of personal writing, from generating ideas to revising drafts. To become captivating narrators, we practice drafting skills essential to all nonfiction writing, drawing from reporting, research, and our personal archives—be it text messages, photos, or journals—to enhance the emotional specificity and intellectual rigor of our personal narratives.
Part seminar and part workshop, this course introduces students to the genre of personal nonfiction and the practice of critiquing writing as a group. Through close examination of their own experiences and engagement with model texts, students develop storytelling skills that will transfer to their future writing in any genre.
Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.