Researching and Writing the Object World and Material Culture
WRITE 498 is an intensive, advanced-level combined seminar/workshop in writing nonfiction prose that aims to explore the possibilities of writing about the object world and material culture. Students will have the opportunity to research and develop stories across this broad, interdisciplinary field in conjunction with readings across a range of contemporary nonfiction literature as well as selected theoretical and critical writings on material culture. Questions we can expect to encounter include definitions of key terms (e.g. “material,” “culture”; theoretical distinctions between “objects” vs “things”); the material agency and “voice” of objects; the value and circulation of objects as commodities; the relationality of humans and things; intentionality and the actual effects of made objects; the potency of the object as an emissary of the past, and of individual and collective memory; the keeping/collecting/ hoarding of things, and the disposal/dispersal/afterlives of things; possible relations between the turn to material culture and the increasing de-materialization of the digital present ; aesthetic objects as meta/physical “things”; the biographical “life” as a dominant trope in recent representations of objects.
The workshop will emphasize individual student initiative in terms of developing topics, discovering subject matter, inventing appropriate forms for that material, and writing to genre-specific audiences. Collaboratively, our expectation in this course is that we will each bring a professional level of commitment to help realize the full potential of each piece we read and workshop. Students will also be responsible for selecting part of the course readings for the syllabus, and for kick-starting one week’s session with a short, oral presentation on aspects of craft or technique in a selected non-fiction text. As time and class size permit, our regular reading/workshop sessions may be supplemented and varied with course activities such as field trips, discussions with guest authors, class attendance at public readings/lectures.
Required Course Text/Assigned Readings:
Philip Gerard, Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life. 2nd ed. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press,
Specific nonfiction essays and texts TBA.