Master Class - At a moment when books and magazines are changing rapidly, writers are asking how they should envision their own work and their lives as writers. This six-week master class will take the present moment as an occasion for us to consider the forms literary nonfiction has taken in recent years --- books, essays,long-form reportage --- and the near future of these forms. We’ll study the assigned works for what they have to say, but also as examples of the different ways arguments are typically framed for different kinds of publications; and we’ll discuss the nature of book proposals, magazine article pitches, and the like.
For the first session, students will read Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return, about writers in the 1920s---whose concerns and problems seem strikingly familiar today --- and the posthumous New Yorker profile of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max.
In week two we’ll consider two short recent books which envision distinctly different models of future creativity: Robert Darnton’s The Case for the Book and Lawrence Lessig’s Remix.
Week three will feature two writers’ personal accounts of change and the literary life: Willie Morris’s memoir New York Days (about his time editing Harper’s in the 1960s) and Richard Rodriguez’s recent essay (for Harper’s) about the decline of the San Francisco Chronicle and its effects on the city and on his own life.
Week four will focus on magazines, through A.O. Scott’s The New York Times Magazine article about The Believer and n+1 and literary magazines generally; Dan Baum’s Twitter “tweets” about his time as a New Yorker staff writer; and “Why I Blog,” by Andrew Sullivan, which compares magazines and the Internet.
In week five we’ll consider the Internet, through Virginia Heffernan’s “The Medium” columns, Carla Blumenkranz’s n+1 essay about Gawker.com, and The Atlantic’s “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” by Nicholas Carr,
We’ll conclude in week six by discussing Lewis Hyde’s Common as Air, in which he discusses writing, and creativity generally, in terms of what he calls “the commons” – the cultural inheritance, owned by no one, that belongs to us all.
There will be two writing assignments: an essay about one or more of the texts discussed in class, and a book or article proposal rooted in the student’s own work.