The Modern memoir borrows as much from poetry and fiction as it does from the essay tradition.
This 5-week class will seek to brew up a genre concoction consisting of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction as you seek to find new ways to tell your stories. Memoir Foundations will investigate how a memoir can dilate from the intimate idiosyncratic personal experience into other ways of knowing.
This class will consist of in-class writings, readings, and workshops to push ourselves into new ways of knowing and new ways of telling. No experience is necessary for this class which will seek to ground both newbies and old salts in the tradition of writing into unknowing our own life experiences and finding ways to re-experience them to write about them newly. You’ll read Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Geoffrey Wolff, Tony Hoagland, Victor LaValle, JoAnne Beard, and Mat Johnson among others.
1st week: Introduction; rejection letters; “We Regret to Inform You” – Brenda Miller: We’ll experiment with different ways of seeing our life stories. A life told by the objects on our nightstands. A life told through rejection letters. We will be at our most irreverent today. Sometimes we have to see our lives as absurd in order to recognize the subliminal truths that have been embedded in the official broadcast of our lives.
2nd week: Time in memoir; “Opening the Door” – Geoffrey Wolff; “How to Tell a True War Story” – Tim O’Brien. We’re going to look at Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story.” We’ll try and suss out what truth means in our lives and what “seemingness” adds to a story.
3rd week: Objects in memoir; “Worn-out Shoes” – Natalia Ginzburg; “In Bed” – Joan Didion; We’ll look at the objects in our lives and what they can offer us in our memoirs.
4th week: Associative structure; Selections from In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado; workshop; There are lots of different ways to tell the stories of our lives. Tonight we’ll experiment with associative structures.
5th week: The personal and the societal; “Stranger in the Village” – James Baldwin; workshop; We’ll be reading and discussing James Baldwin. What better way to spend a Thursday night?