The focus of this weeklong workshop in the rhetoric of nonfiction prose writing—which will be understood as encompassing everything from personal essays and memoirs to high-end literary journalism to lyric essays of the sort that obliterate the distinction between nonfiction and poetry on the one hand and nonfiction and fiction on the other—is the ways in which prose is made to move and develop and create meaning and feeling through that movement. We will look at transitions locally and globally, as embodiments of the immediate energy and momentum of a piece and as inevitable expressions of its overall structure, design, and significance. We will read and dissect essays and memoir fragments by writers ranging from Nabokov, Orwell, Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin to contemporaries such as Anne Carson, Vivian Gornick, and John D’Agata. Exercises based on ideas coaxed out of the readings will be assigned every day, and will be discussed among ourselves during a portion of class time. We will try to explore as fully as possible the proposition that what a writer does centrally is present us not just with ideas, images, impressions but with the bridges, the tunnels, the many and various passages between ideas, images, and impressions.
About Vijay Seshadri:
Vijay Seshadri is the author of the collections Wild Kingdom, The Long Meadow, and 3 Sections (all from Graywolf Press), and “The Disappearances” (Harper-Collins India). His essays, reviews, and memoir fragments have appeared in periodicals such as The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Threepenny Review, The American Scholar, Verse, and in the anthologies The Anchor Essay Annual—Best Essays of 1998 and Best Creative Nonfiction (2008). A former editor at The New Yorker, he is currently the Michele Tolela Myers Professor of Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where he was for over a decade the director of the college’s nonfiction writing program.