Course Reference 53840 Anspach 252 Tuesdays 4-6:50 p.m.                Office Hours: MW 12-1:50, T 3-4

Anspach 243  Voice Mail: 3103  Email: root1rl@cmich.edu   Website: www.chsbs.cmich.edu/Robert_Root



Course Description


The Seminar in Major Nonfiction Writers offers creative and critical approaches to the study of representative works by selected major writers of literary or creative nonfiction.  This means that the course examines nonfiction as literature, in the same way a course in major novelists or poets would address the evidence of their achievements.  It also means that the course is free to draw upon a wide range of historical and contemporary writers, from the earliest essayists to the most recent memoirists and literary journalists. The seminar approach implies that the literary works studied, discussed, and written about in course journals will lead to major papers by the students in the course, who will have the opportunity to present their work-in-progress to the class for discussion and recommendations, and that the course will be not only about the writing of representative nonfictionists but also about the writing of the students in the course. The terms “creative” and “critical” in the course description indicate that, in this course, students will have the opportunity to come to understand and interpret the work of the course writers not only through scholarship and critical analysis but also through imitation and modeling, trying out the strategies and structures of the work being read on projects of the students’ own devising.


This semester’s offering in the Seminar in Major Nonfiction Writers will focus on seven widely varying masters of creative nonfiction: Blake Morrison, Carlo Levi, Terry Tempest Williams, Annie Dillard, Reg Saner, and Chet Raymo.  These writers will represent a range of creative nonfiction writing that stretches from the lyrical and narrative personal essay to expressive critical writing and nonfiction of place.  Students will get the opportunity to write about the selections in the individual volumes and to try their hand at at least two efforts to write to in the style of these masters, as well as turn their critical faculties to scholarship on one of these writers and a close reading of their work.


Required work in the course will include:

·         a journal responding to course readings, class discussion, and the student’s own work-in-progress;

·         an essay or article in the style of one of the writers;

·         another essay in the style of another, quite dissimilar writer;

·         a presentation on critical work-in-progress; and

·         a scholarly paper prepared for the presentation and revised according to the recommendations of the audience for the presentation.

In place of a final examination, students should expect to use the Final Exam period for a writing fair, in which they will share their creative work in the course and participate in a general discussion to draw the semester’s work together.


Required Course Texts:

Calvino, Italo. The Road to San Giovanni.

Dillard, Annie. For the Time Being.

Levi, Carlo. Christ Stopped at Eboli.

Morrison, Blake. And When Did You Last See Your Father?A Son’s Memoir of Love and Loss

Raymo, Chet. Honey from Stone: A Naturalist’s Search for God.

Saner, Reg. Reaching Keet Seel: Ruin’s Echo and the Anasazi.

Williams, Terry Tempest. Leap


CMU provides students with disabilities reasonable accommodation to participate in educational programs, activities or services.  Students with disabilities requiring accommodations to participate in class activities or meet course requirements should contact me as early as possible.

Forward to Course Outline

Forward to Journal 

Forward to Blackboard

Forward to Student Guide to Blackboard

Forward to Essays and Articles Assignment

Forward to Critical Study Assignment 

Forward to Carlo Levi's Art    Second Levi Art Page   

Forward to Chaco Canyon Tour    Chaco Canyon Gallery   Keet Seel    Hovenweep

Forward to Hieronymous Bosch

Forward to Pirate's Alley

Forward to Style Shows: Dillard's Prose Style    White's Prose Style

Forward to Composition and Nonfiction Links

Forward to Reserve Reading List

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