The Documentary Essay


The personal essay blends journalism and memoir. It looks beyond the author's life but doesn't lose sight of it. As a form, it's big enough to including war reporting and small enough to analyze daily habits. This course is for students interested in magazine essay writing, for those who wish to tell their own story through fieldwork and to learn techniques to grip readers to the final word. This discussion-based course will walk students through each stage of the creative practice: reading and analyzing exciting examples of genre; finding a topic with a personal angle; conducting research and outlining a story; fine-tuning ideas and editing for structure, with an eye toward publication. By the end, students will have written essays that resound for them personally while appealing to a larger audience. (8 hours)

Rosecrans Baldwin is the author of the novel You Lost Me There, one of NPR's Best Books of 2010 and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. His memoir, Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 2012). A finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2011, his essays have appeared in The Nation, Salon, Slate, and on NPR's All Things Considered. He is cofounder of the online magazine The Morning News.

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