Summer Writing Course | Memory Maps: An Introduction to Creative Nonfiction

WRIT S1101
3 points
Instructor: Anelise Chen
For course schedule and location, please visit the School of Professional Studies summer site here.
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In recent years, scientists have found that memory and imagination call upon the same “default network” in the brain, suggesting that the recreation of memory is not merely an act of retrieval, but also one of imaginative projection. Philosophers and artists have long noted that memory is mutable territory, its topographical features dependent entirely on the stories we tell ourselves. Another way to think about narrative is that it provides an account for how we got to the present moment, reaffirming once again that we were here, here, and here, which means that the next logical turn should be over there. Well-worn paths may be familiar, but not all are safe or lead to happy endings. Sometimes boundaries shift after a storm, or new mountains erupt into the horizon. When this happens, narrative becomes a necessary navigation tool to help us travel from past to future.
In this class, we will approach narrative writing as mapmakers of memory: We will visit the terrain, determine our location, establish the scale, insert symbols, and learn how to refine what we have mapped. We will read essays, theoretical texts, and memoir excerpts to explore each of these concepts and skills, and reinforce them through discussion and in-class exercises. Finally, we will apply these skills in workshop by generating meaningful and constructive feedback that will provide a foundation for further exchange and collaboration.

Tuition & Fees
Students can review tuition and fees here.

Materials Fee: $20
For questions about School of the Arts summer courses, including those concerning admissions, registration, and billing, please contact the School of Professional Studies summer team at, or 212-854-9666. With questions about specific course content, please contact Writing Departmental Representative Dorothea Lasky at

About the Instructors

Anelise Chen is the author of So Many Olympic Exertions (Kaya Press, Spring 2017), an experimental novel that blends elements of sportswriting, memoir, and self help. She received her BA in English from UC Berkeley and her MFA in Fiction from NYU. Her essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in the New York Times, NPR, BOMB Magazine, New Republic, The Morning News, VICE, Village Voice, and many other publications. more

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.