Nonfiction Workshop: The Memoir and Essay
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Writing
Department: Writing Program
Course Number: NWRW 3879
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Creative Writing
- Civic Engagement
Personal memoir and essay writing may often overlap, but they are very distinct forms. A memoir explores a world unique to the writer. Metaphorically speaking, memoir is an intimate form that takes place in a private room inside a house with no one else there. It is always set in the past and draws on the imaginative faculty of memory. An essay, in contrast, has the quality of a reflective conversation that might develop on a porch with passers-by. Its tone is friendly, but rarely confiding. Essay reflects on an aspect of the world we share and has the feeling of being in the present even if it draws on some past experience. Working in these two forms helps writers learn to tap their interior lives for writing riches. Students write and workshop short pieces throughout this course and work toward a longer piece in either form in the last six weeks. Throughout we read, including memoirs by Jamaica Kincaid and James Carroll and essays by Virginia Woolf and Junichiro Tanizaki.
Open to Undergraduate students.