English 166

Special Topics: The Essay: Traditions and the Individual Talent

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2010 McQuade, Donald
McQuade, Don
TTh 11-12:30 185 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

Arana, Marie (ed): The Writing Life


This course will focus on reading — and writing about — essays on the craft of writing by a medley of historical and contemporary figures in American literature. The essays we will read provide a view of writing literature from the inside — an opportunity for a close examination of the satisfactions and frustrations many writers experience with the composing process. We will also read these essays within the context of the literature each writer has published, and we will attend more generally to the “place” of the writer and literature in American life.

The writers we will read will be as varied as the essays themselves: award-winning and best selling novelists, playwrights, poets, essayists, and memoirists, as well as distinguished teachers and critics. Depending on the course participants’ previous reading experiences, the reading list will blend essays from among such historical luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglas, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens as well as selections from among such contemporary writers as Sherman Alexie, Julia Alvaez, Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Francine Du Plessix Gray, Frances Fitzgerald, Tracy Kidder, Stephen King, David Mamet, Alice McDermott, Gloria Naylor, David Sedaris, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Wendy Wasserstein, and John Edgar Wideman. Working within a reading/writing workshop context, students will have several opportunities to practice and appreciate the literary qualities of their own thinking and writing about composing American literature.

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