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The Art of the Personal Essay

ENGL 145.601

Our voices as writers take shape as we begin to identify the complexities of our inner landscapes, perceptions, dreams, and fears. Memory is a dynamic force, and as we grow through our lives, our relationships with the past often change. This seminar will help you tap into and write about experiences that have helped shape who you are. We will use the personal essay, a form the Handbook of Literature defines as “a kind of informal essay, with an intimate style, some autobiographical content or interest and a…. conversational manner.” Class work will include meditation, freewriting, and visualization exercises; revision, peer review and class discussions. Readings will include works by Maxine Hong Kingston, Kaye Gibbons, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion and Walt Whitman. In addition to in-class writing, students will maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses to assigned books, essays, and stories; conduct interviews, do research and write and revise two to three personal essays during the semester.