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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2004

T C 325 • The True Story: Reading and Writing the Personal Essay

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39635 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
cal 22

Course Description

The most familiar personal essay is the memoir, but it is a form that includes the travel or adventure essay, ruminations on works of art, appreciations of one writer by another, family history, and many other variations. 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. For the first six weeks we will read essays, usually one per class, to gain an idea of the form and its possibilities. For the rest of the semester, we will be reading essays written by the members of the class, in two drafts, beginning and revised. The course will be run as a workshop, that is, the individual student will learn by giving and receiving feedback on his or her writing.

About the professor: Laura Furman is the author of three collections of short stories, two novels, a memoir, and is the co-editor of an anthology on reading. Professor Furman is Series Editor of the O.Henry Prize Stories. She was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Threepenny Review, Preservation, Yale Review, Mirabella, and elsewhere. She is married to Joel Warren Barna, development officer of the McDonald Observatory and the astronomy department of UT Austin. They have one son. Born in New York City, she has lived in Texas since 1978.

Grading Policy

The written work of two drafts of a personal essay will count for 70% of the grade. Thirty percent will be for responses to readings, critical and editorial responses to the work of the other students.


We will read a variety of writers, including Mary McCarthy, Patricia Hampl, Richard McCann, and Floyd Skloot.


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