ENGLISH 425 - Advanced Essay Writing
Section: 003 Immersion Writing: Truth, Fact, and Art
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Open only to seniors who have completed the First-Year Writing Requirement.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Immersion writing is more an approach than a genre. Literary journalism, travel writing, and some forms of memoir regularly use these techniques. In his book A Field Guide for Immersion Writing, Robin Hemley writes: “Immersion writing engages the writer in the here and now in a journalistic sense, shaping and creating a story happening in the present while unabashedly lugging along all that baggage that makes up the writer’s personality: his or her memories, culture, and opinions.”

In many ways, immersion writing has become the dominant mode of creative nonfiction. You see it regularly in essays published in literary venues like Harper’s, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic, as well as in “slick” magazines like GQ, Vanity Fair, and Esquire. Likewise, journalists such as Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air), Sebastian Junger (A Perfect Storm), and Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief) have made careers for themselves by immersing themselves in their subject matter and becoming part of the story.

But how do you do it well? In particular, how can you be involved with your material yet remain objective? How do you juggle facts with impressions? Where is the line between interpretation and fabrication? In short: How can you balance truth, fact, and art?

In this class we’ll both study the approach and become practitioners of it. So in addition to reading literary and investigative features, you’ll also be writing these forms. Similarly, you’ll learn about querying editors, writing pitches, and negotiating the working life of the literary journalist. As an editor and publisher myself, I’ll try to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this world. We’ll also talk regularly with editors and fellow non-fiction authors, giving you insight into both the artistic and practical sides of the process.

Readings will be selected from a coursepack of nonfiction and Robin Hemley’s A Field Guide for Immersion Writing.

Course Requirements:

Coursework will include the completion of three major essays (10-12 pages in length), as well as workshopping in small groups, undertaking small writing assignments, and active participation in class.

Intended Audience:


Note: Though ENGLISH 325 is not a prerequisite for this course, it is strongly recommended and most students will have taken this course previously.

Class Format:


ENGLISH 425 - Advanced Essay Writing
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
003 (SEM)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
004 (SEM)
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
005 (SEM)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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