ENGL 19
The Personal is Political: A Nonfiction Writing Workshop Winter 2022

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, 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.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 12
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: priority to seniors who won't have the chance to take the course again
Unit Notes: Julia McKenzie Munemo went to Bard College before earning a master's in education at Harvard. After building a career as a freelance writer, she earned an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. Her personal, political first book, The Book Keeper: A Memoir of Race, Love, and Legacy, was published in 2020.
Materials/Lab Fee: none

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