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Department of English

Creative Nonfiction Concentration

Guided by published, award-winning faculty, students in the Creative Nonfiction concentration study and write a wide range of creative nonfiction forms, including, Modern Familiar Essay, Autobiography, Travel Writing, and Narrative Nonfiction. A key component of the Creative Nonfiction concentration is that students not only learn to critique artful language and literature but they also learn how to create it.  Along the way, students learn to craft personal experiences, ideas, and interdisciplinary research into compelling, persuasive prose that appeals to a diverse audience. The concentration is also flexible, allowing students the opportunity to pursue their interests in other academic disciplines and creative genres.

English Department faculty teaching in the area of Creative Nonfiction include Molly Garriott (special appointment), Jody Keisner, Tammie Kennedy, Lisa Knopp, Elizabeth Mack (special appointment), John McKenna (emeritus), and John Price. Contact information can be found at our faculty page.


What is Creative Nonfiction?

37 Credits Total

Creative Nonfiction is one of the most predominant and diverse genres of cotemporary writing.  In short, the writer of creative nonfiction chooses subject matter from the “real” world as opposed to inventing it. The most important, common elements of creative nonfiction are personal presence, self-discovery and self-exploration, veracity, and flexibility of form. Creative nonfiction writers are likely to innovate and experiment with the ways structure can conflate with content to achieve compelling narratives. Creative nonfiction includes autobiography, memoir, literary journalism, travel writing, nature writing, spiritual writing, and cultural commentary, as well as hybrid forms of these. This genre has a long and venerable history with roots in the essays of Seneca, Montaigne, and Sei Shogan as well as more contemporary masters such as Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Patricia Hampl, John McPhee, Jamacia Kincade, and Scott Russell Sanders.

The skills required to compose a successful piece of creative nonfiction—close attention to style and form, to the persuasive development of ideas, to the needs of a diverse audience, to interdisciplinary research, to the revision process—prepare students for success in a wide range of professional contexts.  Our students have gone on to prestigious graduate schools in the field, as well as to careers in publishing, free-lance writing, teaching, business, technology, community service, and the sciences.  The value, however, goes beyond the practical.  In creative nonfiction courses, students are encouraged to explore and articulate some of the most significant ideas, feelings, and experiences in their lives.  But the goal is never merely self-exploration.  Creative nonfiction is about relation, about transforming personal interests and experiences into a public, literary art form that reaches beyond the page, into the lives of others.  It is about our attempt, as individual voices, to change the world in a positive way. 

Creative Nonfiction Courses

3130 American Nonfiction
3150 Form and Style in Creative Nonfiction

4820 Autobiography
4848 Travel Writing
4860 Modern Familiar Essay
4960 Topics in Language and Literature: Narrative Nonfiction
4990 Capstone in Creative Nonfiction

Core Requirements

25 Credits

3 hours
English 2410 or 2420: Critical Approaches to Literature or Critical Approaches to Language Studies

6 hours
Literature surveys (2310, 2320, 2450, 2460, 2470, 2500, 2510, or 2520)

3 hours 
3130: American Nonfiction

3 hours 
3150: Form and Style in Creative Nonfiction

9 hours
Additional English courses in Creative Nonfiction 3700 or above*

1 hour   
4990: The Senior Paper

*also acceptable are 3 hours from the following Writers Workshop courses: Fundamentals of Fiction (WRWS 2050), Fundamentals of Poetry (WRWS 2060)

Elective Requirements

12 Credits

Additional English electives of any concentration or level