The Self in Society: Cultural Criticism Through the Personal Essay
No one can fully stand apart from the world they write about. No one can fully look at themselves outside the context of the world that cultivated that self. To write about one is to write about the other, and to implicate the other. In this class, we’ll look at how personal essays can examine the self, but more importantly, how they can use the self as a way to examine the larger cultures to which that self belongs. We will discuss and practice strategies authors can use to characterize themselves (and others) as fully realized individuals who are parts of and products of larger social systems. Topics to be explored include authorial ethos, voice, tone, balancing storytelling techniques with interiority and reflection, the character developments between the author’s younger and present-tense selves, negative capability, and the ethical challenges of being honest with oneself and maintaining empathy for others.
We will not workshop existing work. There will be intermittent mini-lectures, but we will spend more time reading, discussing, and doing in-class writing and exercises. We will also discuss some of the writing students produce in class and work to help each other develop strategies that suit the situation of each individual piece of writing.
This class would be most appropriate for those who already have some foundational knowledge of the conventions of nonfiction.
Part of GrubStreet's Special Topics in the Nonfiction, a group of classes dedicated to exploring different craft elements of creative nonfiction. For more class offerings, click here.
Previous Students Say
- "Inspired Me to Write More"
- "Inundated with Great Info"
- Concept Development
- Computer or Tablet Recommended
- Class Discussion
- In-Class Reading
- Instructor Feedback
- In-Class Writing
- Craft Lessons
- Generate New Work
- Personal Essay
- Literary Journalism