ENGL 19
The Personal is Political: A Nonfiction Writing Workshop Winter 2024

This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

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, Kiese Laymon, 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 personal nonfiction story in essay form. 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 time outside of the classroom as well, during which you’ll be engaged in the writing process and reading for class.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 9
Expected: NA
Class#: 1154
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Paper(s) or report(s); Presentation(s); Creative project(s)
Prerequisites: The spark of an idea or topic about which you want to write in depth.
Enrollment Preferences: If oversubscribed, preference will be made to juniors and seniors.
Unit Notes: Julia McKenzie Munemo directs the Williams Writing Center. Her book, The Book Keeper: A Memoir of Race, Love, and Legacy (Swallow Press, 2020), tells a deeply personal, political story.
Materials/Lab Fee: $30
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
WELL Winter Study Wellness

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