The University of Iowa

Experimenting with Form: Using New Structures and Forms in Literary Nonfiction

Instructor: 
Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020

Shopping list as essay. Death certificate as personal narrative. Map as manifesto. Where once writers of nonfiction were expected to adhere firmly to traditional presentation of their material and avoid overly creative manipulation of form, contemporary writers increasingly challenge these rigid notions, insisting that the thoughtful exploration of a subject can be enhanced by a complementary form to add additional layers of meaning. Today’s prose might therefore borrow the formats of poetry or drama in order to most effectively make its point. It might masquerade in the unusual form of a dialogue, resumé, instruction manual, itinerary, or any other of a myriad traditionally non-literary forms. It might even use forms like comics to present literary content. In this workshop, we will discuss many of the fun and interesting ways that contemporary writers are pushing the boundaries in using unconventional forms. We will read contemporary essays that demonstrate the appropriation of other forms and look closely at how the writers’ deliberate formal choices inform their subject matter. Then we will creatively dive in and enthusiastically experiment with form in our own work, discussing the effectiveness and potential pitfalls of our chosen formal approach in workshop. Expect to break all your own rules, hit upon brilliant ideas, and have a lot of fun taking your writing into new territories. This is a generative course, so bring only your open mind!

 

In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.

Essay
Hybrid Forms
Memoir
Nonfiction