Courses / Modules / HUMA6015 Narrative Non-Fiction: From Literary Journalism to Memoir

Narrative Non-Fiction: From Literary Journalism to Memoir

When you'll study it
Semester 2
CATS points
ECTS points
Level 7
Module lead
Carole Burns
Academic year

Module overview

Writing is inherently an interdisciplinary art. From novelists to poets to narrative non-fiction writers, writers tend to delve into fields that are not their own. Ian McEwan shadows neurologists for several years as he was researching Saturday; Hilary Mantel writes about Thomas Cromwell in her Wolf Hall trilogy; Seamus Heaney wrote about the “Troubles” in countless poems. In narrative non-fiction, this is almost exclusively the case. Truman Capote spent years researching four murders in a small town in Kansas for In Cold Blood. Antony Beevor delves into World War II to bring Stalingrad to life. Susan Sontag explores the art of the camera in On Photography.

This module will offer you the chance to explore the world of narrative non-fiction, allowing you to research a field that you wish to investigate – be it art, medicine, history, biology or current events. At the same time, you will learn both how to conduct research (through documents, observations, interviews, etc.) as well as the fundamental techniques of telling a true story. You will also look at memoir, especially as it engages with the outside world.

The module will consist of lectures that address techniques in narrative non-fiction as well as the structure and techniques in particular narrative non-fiction texts, while also including talks from lecturers in different disciplines who write about their work for an audience outside their own field. The seminars will consist of workshops in which student work is critiqued, interlaced with discussions of issues in creative non-fiction such how to tell a story that creates characters, places and suspense without straying from the truth, when to use first person, the role of the writer as character, and whether it is ever acceptable to alter details to construct a story.

The module is aimed at both MA Creative Writing and MA English students who might have an interest in writing about their own subject for a non-specialist audience. The skills required for writing creative non-fiction is helpful in any mode of creative writing and in any field, so this module will help you to develop as a writer whatever your plans and ambitions may be.

While you will practice non –fiction writing during the term, the assessment may, upon consultation with the module convenor, be made into a fictional piece or a series of poems – recognizing the interdisciplinary quality of creative writing.