HUMS 620
Nonfiction Narratives: Research, Field Work, and Writing

Lisa Jarnot                   

Course Description

A course for teachers and writers, this course focuses on variations of research projects from the genre of true crime novels to case studies to memoirs to documentary projects to epic poetry with historical themes.

Readings will include excerpts of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Maggie Nelson's Jane: A Murder, Michel Foucault's I Pierre Riviere...; Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw, Ezra Pound's Cantos and shorter in-class hand-outs.

In addition to classroom discussions and exercises regarding research tools (the internet, library sources, interviews, and various forms of field work), each class member will choose a topic of interest to research during the course. Specific attention will be given to methods of organizing research materials, transformations of raw materials into narrative structures, and multi-genre possibilities for the non-fiction narrative from hypertext to film to poetry.

Course Schedule
Non-fiction and the self: an entrance to research.Read Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw
July 17

Introduction: Why research? Why history? Why narrative? An overview of the goals for the course.

July 18

Discussion of research methods (via Ed Sanders’ “Investigative Poetics”) and hand-out/discussion of excerpts of Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A history of walking and W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. 

July 19

Library visit: how to get the most out of your online and print resources, and brainstorming: chosing a topic to study.  Intersections of the personal, political, historical.

July 20 View documentary film: The Times of Harvey Milk. Discuss Bornstein. Continue discussion of research methods: oral histories and interviews. Weekend reading: Smithsonian online collection of Oral Histories.
Non-fiction and records of history: Read Capote's In Cold Blood
July 24

Discussion of Capote and access to public records: newspapers, genealogy banks, archives.

July 25 Cross-genre forms: Poetry and records of history: Ezra Pound's Cantos, Charles Reznikoff's Testimony, Juliana Spahr's Response, and Maggie Nelson's Jane.
July 26 Transcript of interview due. Writing day: the one hour research project: creating text quickly and with accuracy.  
July 27

Outline of research project due.  Discussion: documenting sources: MLA style and beyond.

Non-fiction as sociological study. Read Michel Foucault’s I, Pierre Riviere…
July 31 Rough draft of project due. Group work: looking at rough drafts and workshopping them in teams and in the larger group.
August 1 Fine-tuning. Bringing other information into the weave: the cultural, political, historical. How does your research fit into a larger pattern of research?
August 2

Read excerpt of Freud, view PBS documentary:  Kip Kinkel: The Killer at Thurston High.  Discuss Foucault.

August 3

Final projects due, recap of class, notes on further resources, venues for publishing your work.