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CW912 Nonfiction Writing Workshop

Convenor: Dragan Todorovic, Director of WWP

The central point of this module is writing the Self in history, and our core material is memory.

This module will investigate the presence/absence of the author in nonfiction writing. We will address the limitations and the possibilities, and how creative nonfiction writing relates to all forms of self-expression we have today, from memoirs to social networks.

Memory is the point in which time, place and the Self intersect. Since all three elements are in constant movement, memories are neither permanent nor reliable. Why, then, write down our memories? Is it an effort to turn them into accurate points that should mark the locus of a certain plateau in our consciousness? Is it an attempt to write the (private) Self into (collective) history? By writing memory, and adding personal perspective—are we creating another layer of distortion, or are we peeling the onion? When we delegate our memory to paper, do we reinforce it, or do we abdicate our responsibilities? Is memoir just another name for passport to oblivion?

This module will strive to investigate possible answers to these, and other similar questions. Its purpose is to investigate the theory and practice of writing autobiographical literature.

During the first half of the term, students will delve into several major works, which should give them a historical perspective and show them some of the possible approaches to writing private history—in terms of style, political and ideological connotations, and ambitions. In the second half of the semester, students will work on a major piece of life writing. Their progress will be followed through workshops in a group, and this will enable students to share their ideas and to further hone their writing skills. Special emphasis will be given to the contemporary means of life writing, and to the use of modern media.

Important notes: 1—Due to the often sensitive material discussed in this module, all participants must strictly observe the principles of confidentiality. Only knowledge leaves the classroom—discussing other people’s material outside of our workshops is not welcome. 2—Some of the material discussed in the classroom can contain triggers. While preventive measures are taken to avoid potential danger (trigger warnings are in this module, as in our other modules, obligatory), having multiple triggers might prevent you from enjoying this module to the full extent. If in doubt, write to the convenor and inquire about the details.


  • Confessions - St Agustine
  • Hope Abandoned - Nadezhda Mandelʹshtam
  • Epileptic - David B.
  • The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
  • Museum of Unconditional Surrender - Dubravka Ugrešić
  • Moveable Feast: The restored edition, Ernest Hemingway
  • A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
  • Just Kids - Patti Smith
  • The Invention of Solitude - Paul Auster
  • Angela's Ashes: A Memoir of a Childhood - Frank McCourt
  • Kolyma stories - Varlam Shalamov

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Read and analyse some of the most innovative contemporary works of life writing, and get a historical perspective of the genre.
  2. Develop their capacity for close reading and critical analysis, and apply these skills in their approach to life writing.
  3. Be able to recognise and evaluate the specific methodologies and creative choices in writing self-representational text.
  4. Make connections between contemporary critical analysis and creative writing practice.
  5. Understand how innovative techniques can be applied in life writing practice.
  6. Be able to confidently choose and apply advanced writing techniques within their work.
  7. Be able to plan and execute a sustained piece of life writing.
  8. Be equipped with theoretical and practical knowledge that will allow them to explore various aspects of writing self-representational non-fiction.