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Course Catalog

“The Subject Is Me”: Writing the Personal Essay   

“More than a story, we want a voice speaking softly urgently, in our ear… to our heart.” Patricia Hampl says of the personal essay. The personal essay form marries thought, the “figuring out” of traditional essays with the delight of drama, setting, dialogue and scene, the techniques of fiction. This capacious form invites wit, heart, feeling, analysis, and demands above all, truthfulness and self-revelation. In this class, we will practice creating the “I”voice, setting scene and shedding inhibitions in our writing. Through in-class writing exercises and studying exemplars of personal essays, we will each produce an essay and receive peer and instructor feedback. Week by Week Outline Week one: Definition of personal essay and useful terms for discussion. In class writing exercises: Who Am I? and Hateful Things Week Two: Finding your material. What do you care about? In class writing – Emotional map exercise, hobby vocabulary exercise. Week Three: Specificity, density, vibrant language and vertical thought. In class writing: John Gardner emotion exercise Week Four: Family stories. Privacy, exposure and who owns your material. Legacy writing. In class writing: Cookbook exercise. Week Five: The drama of dissent. Against Joie de Vivre by Philip Lopate In class writing – the “Against” exercise. Share work. Week Six: ”Road Trips” by David Sedaris Analyze elements of comic writing and humor in essays. Share work. Objectives of the Course To introduce the structure and form of the personal essay. To practice writing essays utilizing vibrant language and to stimulate thought and identification with others.


This class is not available at this time.