Essays (Es)

Your work for this course will culminate in two substantive nonfiction essays. Let me explain what I mean by each of those terms.

By essay I mean almost anything. I am not interested in specifying a particular form or style for your writing to take. To the contrary, I hope you will experiment with several different kinds of nonfiction. The term essay appeals to me precisely for its vagueness, its capaciousness.  Part of the challenge of writing an essay involves finding the specific form that the piece you’re working on needs to take.

By nonfiction I mean that your writing must be about real events, people, or texts. You may draw on your own experiences in your writing, but I also encourage you to write on public events, figures, texts, and issues. Whatever your subject, I will expect you to represent it as accurately as you can.

By substantive I mean that each of your essays should show clear evidence of hard work that you’ve done—both in learning about your subject and in crafting your writing on it. Most of your essays for this course will draw on research either in the field (interviews, notes on events and places)  or archives (print or web). You need to clearly document the sources of your writing.  I will also expect your prose to be well considered and carefully edited.

Your final essays will be revisions of pieces that you’ve workshopped in your writing group—which means that they will usually be third or fourth drafts. In past semesters, most final essays have run somewhere around 2,000 words—but there are no requirements concerning either form or length.  What matters is the thought, craft, work, and imagination that you bring to your writing.

Your first essay is due on Tuesday, 4/04/2017, and the second on Tuesday, 5/09/2017.  Each will earn a letter grade that counts towards approximately 1/4 (23%, to be exact) of your final semester grade.

In terms of how I assign letter grades, let me repeat what I’ve said elsewhere on this site. To earn an A you need to two things very well: (1) You need to have something to say, to offer some real insight into the experience or event or person or text that you’re writing about. And  (2)  you need to write in a voice that seems distinctively your own. And of course you also need to be professional—to edit and design your documents with care and imagination.

I look forward to reading your essays for this course! Good luck!

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