Creative nonfiction takes the whole world for its subject – the external world, with its infinite wonder, teeming diversity, and intractable conflicts; and the internal world, with its neverending struggle for identity and self-understanding. The most memorable works succeed in bridging this divide, chronicling the subject’s encounter with her objective environment, and noting the many ways in which both may be changed in the process.
This course will explore some of the established forms of creative nonfiction – personal essay, lyric essay, immersion journalism, travel writing – and seek to create new forms of our own. We will read published work by masters of the form and discuss fundamental elements of craft such as description, characterization, dialogue, conflict, and voice; students will write exercises and longer pieces in a number of styles and forms. In this we will have the incomparable advantage of our round-the-world voyage, affording encounters with numerous peoples and cultures, so that our work may “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” Throughout the semester we will also discuss the complicated ethics of telling true stories in an era of “reality television” and “fake news.”
Additionally, students will have the opportunity to submit finished pieces to the shipboard magazine, The Odyssey, for possible publication.
Field WorkCountry: Ghana
Date: September 30, 2018
Though slavery in the United States was outlawed 150 years ago, every American has been affected by its bloody history and its persistent legacy. By exposing students to the history and experiences of Africans who were sold into slavery, this field class will enable students to make connections between distant, historical events and the realities of their own lives. We will begin with a visit to the Donko Nsuo “Slave River,” where kidnapped Africans were given their last bath and made “presentable” before being taken to the auction blocks and loaded onto ships. From there, we will visit St. George’s Castle in Elmina to see the auction rooms and dungeons in which the slave’s fates were sealed. Before leaving each stop, we will set aside time for students to free write and consider their relationship – historical, emotional, socioeconomic – to the events that took place here centuries ago.
This field class will form the basis of one of three works of creative nonfiction that students produce over the course of the semester. The first draft of a memoir in which students are asked to consider connections between slavery, civil rights, race relations in the U.S., and their own lives and circumstances, will be due at the end of October and worth 15% of their final grade.
- Students will learn about the actual, real-life conditions of the slave trade by visiting sites associated with its legal and commercial implementation.
- Students will experience aspects of daily Ghanaian life outside of Takoradi, both in the countryside and in the modern town of Elmina.
- Students will make connections between this centuries-old system of atrocities and their own lives by writing about their encounter with the mechanics of the slave trade and the ideas, memories, feelings it engenders.