English 312

ENGL 312
Creative Nonfiction Writing

Catalog Entry

ENGL 312. Creative Nonfiction Writing
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisites: CORE 101 and CORE 102.

For student who plans to teach creative writing or composition at secondary level and needs introduction to creative nonfiction methods; for student who may wish to write for newspapers, magazines, or other publications; for student who, regardless of background and vocational plans, is interested in developing skills in writing memoir, essay, and literary journalism; or for student of literature interested in writing creative nonfiction and participating in workshops as a means of developing writing and critiquing skills.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Creative nonfiction includes a wide spectrum of writing, from personal and lyric essays to literary journalism, memoir to nature writing. This “fourth genre” reports on events, places, and lives using techniques traditionally utilized by fiction writers and poets, including scene, dialogue, setting, characterization, point-of-view manipulation, and focus on language to dramatize events observed by the author, often through immersion.  The result, ideally, is a true story packed with information but also interesting to read.  Students will be taught the stages of the writing process, including invention, drafting, revision, and editing, and how audience and purpose place demands and controls on the writer regarding content, structure, syntax, and diction.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will be conducted as an ongoing discussion of composing processes, ways of using feedback, and ways of reading, and may include:

  • Visiting writer or workshop sessions where students practice skills in peer evaluation and editing;
  • Journals in response to creative nonfiction readings;
  • Invention exercises designed to gather material (such as maps, timelines) for further writing;
  • Observations of places or events, interviews with people, and research of activities;
  • Revision activities designed to strengthen skills in at various stages in the writing process;
  • Discussion of assigned readings and student essays and conferences with students.


Goals and Objectives of Course

Students completing English 312 will be able to:

  • Define creative nonfiction as a literary genre,
  • Analyze creative nonfiction for meaning and merit,
  • Employ a process approach to create publishable memoir-based essays,
  • Use advanced researching skills and techniques of writing literary journalism to understand the varied forms of creative nonfiction and ways of presenting a subject, such as detached observer or participant,
  • Develop lyrical or braided essays as means of strengthening students’ skills in working with different forms of writing and multiple-layered topics,
  • Discover new avenues for teaching writing and developing personal essays, and
  • Explore new avenues for publication of student writing.


Assessment Measures

English 312 uses a variety of assessment measures, which may include:

  • at least three significantly revised essays of different forms, such as a memoir, a profile, and a braided or lyrical essay
  • various informal writing exercises
  • analyses of readings
  • informal discussion/focus questions
  • journals and logs
  • examinations and quizzes
  • class/workshop participation
  • a writing portfolio


Other Course Information

Creative nonfiction remains a staple of longtime literary publications like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. Recently, creative nonfiction has emerged as a discipline with its own journal, Creative Nonfiction (edited by Lee Gutkind) and MFA program (at Goucher).

One of the primary purposes of the study of English is to hone a student’s skills as a writer. Students will better prepare themselves as writers through the examination of creative nonfiction and an exploration of themselves as writers via the many forms creative nonfiction can take.

To enhance the appeal of English majors for those with an eye toward marketable skills, the ability to turn facts (or find facts through research) and turn them into a polished piece of writing will continue to be desirable for careers in journalism, education, and technical writing.


Review and Approval

October, 2009