BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Creative Writing: Creative Non-Fiction

Unit code ENGL34052
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course teaches a wide variety of nonfiction forms, ranging from essays and reportage to travel and memoir. We study the construction and writing of features, reviews, opinion pieces, polemic, diaries and journals. We engage with the world for the purpose of writing about it in such a way that readers gain pleasure and insight. We read a great variety of work by some of the outstanding reporters, stylists, polemicists, diarists, essayists and novelists (writing factually) who wrote or are still writing in English.


The aims of this course are:

1. To understand the conventions, disciplines, demands and possibilities of a variety of nonfiction forms.

2. To develop advanced skills in research, observation, close reading and effective writing.

3. To practise the analysis and criticism of different genres of nonfiction, and to hone reflection and development through peer appraisal.


1 Intro: The art of writing well – research – non-fiction techniques

2 Reportage

3 Features & Essays

4 Opinion and Polemic

5 Reviews      

6 Travel

7 Place writing

8 Nature writing

9 Food, Arts, Sports

10 Memoir 1

11 Memoir 2

Teaching and learning methods

This class will have a 3-hour seminar.


Materials including reading, exercises and handouts will be posted on Blackboard each week.  Seminar participants will be encouraged to use Blackboard message boards. 

Knowledge and understanding

1. Demonstrate a wide range of independent reading in non-fiction.

2. Write originally and effectively in a variety of the forms taught on the course.

3. Apply an enhanced critical facility to writing in general, and non-fiction in particular.

4. Redraft work effectively in the light of peer appraisal.

5. Speak confidently about research process, findings and finished work.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- think critically and make critical judgments about nonfiction

- analyse course texts in a critical manner;

- identify and outline key issues in the writing of nonfiction;

- write effective pieces of nonfiction.

Practical skills

- plan and execute independent research on nonfiction;

- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course;

- speak and write clearly about nonfiction;

- comment on the performance of a peer, identifying strengths and making constructive suggestions for improvement where appropriate.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources;

- deliver oral presentations in front of tutor and group;

- produce written work using appropriate language for an academic audience;

- produce written work for a general reader of nonfiction

- demonstrate good teamwork skills by acknowledging the views of others and working constructively with others;

- manage time effectively by scheduling tasks in order of importance;

- demonstrate the ability to improve one’s own learning through critical reflection, evaluation, good time management.

Assessment methods

Piece of creative non-fiction; 2000 words; 40%

3000 word essay; 60%

Recommended reading

AA Gill - Welcome to Death Island

Hilton Als - Joan Didion : the Art of Nonfiction

George Orwell - Shooting an Elephant

Zadie Smith - Dead Man Laughing

Jenny Diski - Skating to Antarctica

Jan Morris - Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

J A Baker - The Peregrine

Hisham Matar - The Return

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Class: Mon 10am - 1pm

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