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

This course is not offered in the current 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: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: NA
Class#: 1154
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Paper(s) or report(s); Presentation(s)
Prerequisites: the spark of an idea about which you'd like to write an essay
Enrollment Preferences: by seniority, (starting with seniors, who won't have another chance to take it) because I've found older and more experienced students get more out of the class than first-years.
Unit Notes: Julia Munemo directs the Writing Center. Her personal, political stories include her 2020 memoir The Book Keeper and a (hopefully forthcoming) collection called Dreaming in Whitopia: Essays on Race, Mental Health, and Motherhood.
Materials/Lab Fee: $30
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
WELL Winter Study Wellness

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