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Advanced Non-Fiction Writing

ENGL 145.302
instructor(s):
M 2-5:00

Do you feel you have a fresh perspective on life's goings-on? Did you look at a building today and wonder what's going on inside? Is there an event, a person, an idea that you think has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, under-appreciated?

If so, come and investigate with me. We will spend the semester doing our best to write out of that paper bag that is made up of our curiosity, our observations and our prejudices. The best creative non-fiction explains, but it also makes us run to learn more about the subject.

I've been lucky enough to spend a career writing such stuff and look forward to finding out different ways of doing so from you. We will be reading some of the best magazine and newspaper writing of the last century - and hopefully be writing some of it as well. We will talk about essays, arts reviews, general features and even sportswriting.

This semester we will concentrate on - though not exclusively - the writing of profiles and humor. Students will be required to write at least two pieces of magazine length (2000 words or more) and several shorter pieces. The longer pieces will be presented to the class for workshop criticism. While there are texts ("The Art of Fact," edited by Kevin Kerrane and Ben Yagoda), and "The New Yorker Book of Humor," we will also read current newspapers and magazines and discuss contemporary styles in non-fiction writing. Since I am a practicing journalist, you will be subjected to reading my pieces as well - and I intend to be subjected to your criticism.

Those who choose to take this course should read the New York Times Sunday magazine that will appear the day before the first class so we have a basis for discussion that day. Come in with ideas on how you might have written the stories differently.

Those interested in taking the course should submit as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Robert Strauss, Department of English 119 Bennett Hall/6273. Also include your name, SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.