A variable topics workshop in the writing of creative nonfiction. Topics will vary from semester to semester and may include "Nature Writing," "Life Writing," "History of the Essay," and more.
ENGL 309: Creative Nonfiction Writing
Creative nonfiction often bears witness to disaster, and this witnessing can take many forms: essays, first-person journalism, documentary films, photo essays, memoir, and so on. Historically, the only “acceptable” approach to documenting disaster is to stand apart from the chaos of actual experience in order to chronicle it, to remark on it, to create narrative order through logic, reflection, and exposition. But is that ever really possible? What does it cost the writer to maintain the distance of detached observer that “good” creative nonfiction requires, and how might that distance be usefully collapsed? What does it cost the writer’s subjects to be portrayed as victims of influences beyond their control? What are ethical approaches to documenting the natural and political disasters that upend an increasing number of people around the world? In this creative writing seminar, we will consider the implications of documenting different modes of disaster — from the natural disasters of hurricanes and flooding to disasters of war and contamination; from personal and intimate disasters to political and public ones — and the relationships among nature, politics, so-called narrative distance and the proximity of lived experience. Can literary work do more than simply document? Should it? How do these demands differ when writing essays, memoirs, and research narratives? Students in this course will have the opportunity to work on innovative individual and group projects for possible inclusion in the Houston Flood Museum.
This course qualifies for the Creative Writing Concentration.