Nonfiction Writing

Synchronous Online

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Narrative feedback instead of grades on individual assignments. To help you succeed, I will practice a system of “ungrading” that offers percentage points based on whether or not the assignment was completed before the semester ends.




Thornton Wilder wrote this to the author John Knowles in 1945: “It is from our deepest subjectivity that we write.” Like a memorable piece of nonfiction, this quote carries many layers of truth. It is indeed important to write the objective details of our world. To write an autobiographical piece, we must begin to understand our own our own distinctive backgrounds, and our own unique points of view, in order to observe, and work within, the contexts we wish to explore.

Over the course of the semester, we will interpret the term “nonfiction” broadly, in different forms, including text, graphic, oral history, film, and performance works. Ultimately, we will focus on the memoir essay and personal essay forms of nonfiction, but we will also absorb works across a variety of mediums and from a number of different countries, traditions, and eras. We will also explore the ethics of nonfiction writing through the works of theorists and practitioners.


Interpret nonfiction writing in a variety of media through close reading and viewing.
Engage the ideas and the writing of others in active, compassionate, critical ways.
Draft and revise original nonfiction work by a series of deadlines, prepared for an audience of readers.
Track different modes of thought on nonfiction by engaging several philosophies and practices.
Discover and articulate your own ethics and aesthetics within nonfiction.


readings made available as PDFs.
Your own dedicated, blank notebook for in-class writing exercises.


Three short nonfiction pieces, 500-700 words each, 10% each (30% total).
Long nonfiction piece, 1500-2,000 words. 20%
Revision of long nonfiction piece, 10%
One presentation on one nonfiction book of your choicd. 10%
Participation in class writing exercises. 10%
Participation in class conversations. 10%
Written feedback on classmates’ pieces for workshop. 10%