English 143N

Prose Nonfiction: Our Culture, Our Lives

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2020 Saul, Scott
MW 12-1:30


This course is a nonfiction workshop in which you’ll learn to write about many different types of art and culture, from TV to music and film, while also developing your own voice and sensibility on the page as you learn to write about your own life. By the end of the class, you should come away with a working knowledge of how to write reviews, profiles, “think pieces,” and autobiographically-shaded essays that engage with a cultural figure, flashpoint, or landscape.

Our semester will be guided by a few basic questions: What can we demand from culture? What does it mean to love or hate a song, TV show, actor, director, performer, artist, athlete, celebrity? How are we changed by our encounters with specific works of art? And how do our arguments about a particular work of art, particular artist, particular place, or particular cultural phenomenon connect to broader dreams about politics, freedom, community, and our sense of the possible?

Three special features of the course bear specific mention.

First, on several occasions, we will be honored to host a visit (digital or in-person) with an esteemed writer whose work will be featured in the class. Previous guests to the workshop have included the poet-critic Hanif Abdurraqib, Ann Powers (NPRi), Hua Hsu (New Yorker), Vinson Cunningham (New Yorker), and Lili Loofbourow (Slate). 

Second, we will be guided by the understanding that the art of writing is, in large part, the art of re-writing. The workshopping of your pieces is designed to help you get some fresh perspective on how your earlier drafts play in the minds of your readers—and what might be improved. 

Third, there’s a digital publication attached to this course: “The Annex”. The goal is for every student to build their portfolio of published writing through the workshop.

Only continuing, upper-division UC Berkeley students are eligible to apply for this course. To be considered for admission, please electronically submit  5-10 pages of your creative non-fiction (no poetry or academic writing that presumes a limited audience), by clicking on the link below; fill out the application you'll find there and attach the writing sample as a Word document or .rtf file. The deadline for completing this application process is 11 PM, THURSDAY, APRIL 30.

Applicants will be informed, by email, of the results of their applications by May 31.

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