E 325 • Reading and Writing the Personal Essay
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
We will read, discuss, and write personal essays. Though there may be a broad range of subject matter in the personal essay, the hallmark of the form is the voice of the writer--subjective, personal, present. The memoir is the most popular type of the personal essay, but the form also includes adventure essays, ruminations on works of art, appreciations of a writer or historical figure or place, family histories, and other variations. Some memoirs require undertaking serious research. The single element defining the personal essay, as opposed to journalism and editorials, is that the writer is included in the story he or she is telling.
First, we will read essays to gain an idea of the form and its possibilities. For the rest of the semester, we will read essays by the members of the class: two beginning drafts and a revision of one draft. You'll also write three one-page responses to the reading.
It is a requirement of the course that you make written comments on the text of the essays by your fellow students as you read, and that you hand that marked copy to the author after class discussion. Be helpful, polite, and honest. Your spoken comments in class are considered in the final grade.
Your written work counts heavily for your final grade, but your class participation and your responsiveness both to editorial suggestions and to our developing sense of the personal essay will also be counted. Grading is in whole grades only and according to the following measure: A/excellent, B/good, C/average, D/below average, F/failing. The proportion for grading is: Class work: 15%. Written work: 85%.
This is not a lecture course. You are expected to participate in the class discussion.
Attendance: I expect you to come to class. If you are going to miss more than two classes in the semester, you need to let me know why, preferably by e-mail. If you miss classes without being excused by me, your final grade will suffer.
The Best American Essays, 2000, Alan Lightman, ed.
Other texts to be announced.