English 251: Nonfiction Writing Personal Essay

Course #2178, Section 01
The College of Saint Rose
Fall 2016
Fridays 11:45am-3:20pm
Albertus Hall Room 112

Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English, Instructor
E-mail: daniel [dot] nester [at] strose [dot] edu
Phone: 518-454-2812
Teaching Blog: http://nestersteachingblog.com
Office: Dolan Hall, 442 Western Avenue, First Floor #1
Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:30pm-3:30pm; Thursdays 4pm-5:30pm and by appointment
Link to this page: nestersteachingblog.com/english251personalessay

Catalog Course Description

Practice in one or more prose forms with attention to strategies for revision and editing. Particular semesters will focus on specific types of writing, such as memoir, biography, journal writing, travel pieces, local histories, or personal essays. This course may be taken more than once, provided it addresses a different topic. Some research may be required. Prerequisite: ENG105 or equivalent. (L05)

Semester-Specific Course Description for Fall 2016: English 251: Personal Esssay Writing

This is a course in writing personal essays. Students will read examples of personal essay form and will be introduced to the craft essay writing, as well as literary criticism and the essay tradition. Using free writing, generative exercises of write uses a workshop method to introduce students to the writing of literary prose, including a personal essay, an experimental essay and a first-person narrative. Workshops promote discussion and critique of student work.

Course Goals

By the end of the semester, students should learn to do and show the following:
—learn about and join the community and guild of practicing writers of the personal essay, and with it its traditions, influences, and histories;
—demonstrate knowledge of, appreciation of, and the ability to interpret, personal essays; students will write work that demonstrates historical understanding and/or techniques specific to the discipline of writing personal essays
—hand in 4- to 6-page pieces of writing each week—sometimes as a result of a prompt, exercise, or model, other times more open-ended—for a total of at least 40 pages of polished, publishable prose;
—offer constructive, helpful criticism of other students’ writing in the workshop as well as to work with critiques offered of one’s own work;
— to have a constructive discussion of classmates’ writing, and to encourage others’ craft of writing and revision;
— to learn to read as writers–as opposed to reading as scholars or general audiences–and discuss examples of published work that address issues of craft we encounter in our class;
— to learn about the markets, publications, and audiences for our writing, and how to submit work;
— to learn to revise work in multiple drafts over the course of a semester; and finally,
— my own personal goal, for the class to have fun as we work hard to learn about the art and craft of nonfiction writing, and in the process learn a little about ourselves.

Required Texts

Williford, Lex and Michael Martone. Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present. New York: Touchstone, 2007. ISBN: 978-1416531746. [Amazon listing]

Copies of writing and web links will be supplied by the instructor. Do plan on printing at least 100 pages throughout the course of the semester, as well as making Xeroxes of your own drafts for others in class.  Make plans accordingly: add prints through your ITS account, if necessary, to make sure you can print out your readings or your own work for class.  Students who do not come to class with their own printed documents or copies of other students’ work will be marked as unprepared for class.

Course Requirements, Percentage of Your Final Grade

• 35% Participation: Discussions, reading reactions, presentations, Writing Center visit (if required), conferences, group work, group writing, critiques of student work;
• 35% Informal writing: Weekly writing assignments, in-class free writing and exercises, short reaction papers;
• 30% Formal writing: Essay revisions, Final Portfolio at end of semester


I use a grading rubric for many assignments. The following apply on class-by-class basis, and should give you an idea of how I assess student performance.

Participation, Collegiality, and Conduct Rubric
Persuasive Essay Rubric
Student Reading and Writing Rubric

Syllabus Statements and Policies

Attendance Policy
Snapshot from My Grade Book
Writing Format
File Format and How to Name Your Files
Conferences and Drafts
Late Work
Participation: Writing Class
Email Policy
Required Materials and Skills
Academic Integrity
Students with Disabilities
Writing Center Visits