The Personal is Political: A Nonfiction Writing Workshop Winter 2019

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Since St. Augustine’s Confessions, great political thinkers have crafted personal stories as evidence of and witness to their own political times. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs told their stories to further the abolitionist movement. W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, and Simone de Beauvoir ushered us through the turbulent 20th century showing how the personal is political, and the political, personal. Today, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Suki Kim, Maggie Nelson, and Claudia Rankine, among others, show us how well-crafted personal stories can bring important political ideas to the forefront of our collective imagination. Anticipating criticism of the form, Beauvoir wrote in the preface to her 1961 autobiography that “if any individual…reveals himself honestly, everyone, more or less, becomes involved. It is impossible for him to shed light on his own life without at some point illuminating the lives of others.” In this workshop, you will do just that, crafting a nonfiction project–memoir, personal essay, or a hybrid form–the final draft of which will determine half of your grade. We’ll meet for six hours each week, splitting our time between discussions of the published work we’re reading and a workshop-setting discussion of the work you’re producing. Your engagement with this class will occupy significantly more time outside of the classroom–roughly twenty hours a week–during which you’ll be engaged in the writing process and reading for class. Readings for the course will be selected from: Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son” Biss, Eula. Selections from Notes from No Man’s Land Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Selections from Between the World and Me Hurston, Zora Neale. How It Feels to be Colored Me Khan-Cullors, Patrisse and Asha Bandele. Selections from When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir Nelson, Maggie. Selections from The Argonauts Rankine, Claudia. Selections from Citizen Smarsh, Sarah. “Poor Teeth” and others Adjunct Instructor Bio: Julia Munemo holds her MFA in creative nonfiction and has completed a memoir about race, love, mental illness, and her father–a writer of racially charged pulp fiction. Her manuscript explores how her legacy conflicts with her present-day life as one half of an interracial marriage and the mother of mixed-race children. She teaches writing workshops in Williamstown and Maine.
The Class: Format: mornings
Limit: 12
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: email explaining reasons for interest in the course to [email protected]
Materials/Lab Fee: cost of books

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