Nonfiction Writing

For our purposes, “nonfiction” writing will involve a combination of personal narrative or storytelling with reflection and analysis. This is a variation on “creative nonfiction” and “memoir” writing. In this sense, you will be drawing on actual events and experiences, but you will not be simply reporting them (as with journalism) or just describing your experience (as you might with a personal journal). We want to take up our experience as something we can reflect on and learn from, something that allows us to address bigger concepts and questions. Our readings from Febos and Chaffee offer examples in this direction.

Your work on the Nonfiction Writing paper (minimum 1000 words) should address the following prompts:

  • Your writing should in some way draw upon your experience, taking up things that have happened to you, things you’ve done, things you’ve witnessed or observed, or things that have been related to you. The experience you focus on could be personal, difficult, or traumatic; it could be more mundane or ordinary; it could be a shared public experience (think of how Chaffee draws on national events). Part of your writing should involve describing and discussing this experience.
  • Your writing should in some way reflect upon this experience to see what sorts of insights we gain from it. You might gain insights into yourself as a person, into some aspect of our society and culture, or into some idea or concept or question (Febos, for example, helps us think about how our attitudes toward stalking emphasize the desires and internal lives of men rather than the threat to women). You should thus move from your specific experience and observations to broader questions, insights, and conclusions.
  • This is not a requirement, but you can also look for opportunities to make connections with other texts, events, or examples (again, Chaffee connects her experience to national tragedies; Febos draws on other authors, movies, and interviews). These sorts of connections can help add context to your experience and thus help you further analyze it and situate it in a broader conversation.

Post your work to your class website before class the day it is due. If you do draw on outside sources, be sure to cite them at the end of your writing.

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