Writing Beyond the Known: Exploring the Possible through Speculative NonfictionView Course
Learn to use a variety of techniques to map the territories of inner worlds and the possibilities of the world we share.
In this course, you will celebrate the elastic quality of the essay form. You will explore how metaphor, speculation, and imaginative play can enliven your writing, help you examine your values, fascinations, imaginings, and capture the slippery quality of the individual writer’s passage through time and the sometimes surreal quality of existence. Students will experiment with techniques such as unexpected figurative language; associative memory; leaps across time; combining genres and mediums; and the writing of daydreams, fantasies, dreams, and imaginings. As we proceed, our interest will be not in misrepresenting the true events of the past, but in using a variety of techniques to map the territories of inner worlds and the possibilities of the world we share.
Week 1 – GROUNDING YOURSELF TO THINK BEYOND
Investigate how to use the present as a jumping-off point into examining your values, fears, and ideals. Readings and writing exercises will guide you in thinking about how you might move from the concrete to the abstract in a piece of writing— for example, from the sensory realities of the now to imagined futures, or from the details of the actual to what is possible.
WEEK 2 – Beyond Genre, Beyond the Familiar
Get your creativity flowing by experimenting with genre boundaries and unconventional forms, such as letters, diaries, dream journals, commonplace books, collages, and graphic memoir. This week, we’ll think about how these approaches can help you access new angles on the material of your life, world, and mind. We will also explore ways to “estrange the familiar” in order to give personal narratives new, compelling power (both for yourself and for the reader).
WEEK 3 – Nonfiction and Imagined Worlds
Examine work by writers exploring the utopian and dystopian possibilities of the past, present, and future. You’ll also begin examining your own hopes and values and speculating about the world you want to see in your lifetime. This week will be a time to explore how writing can sustain our values and keep alive individual and communal ideals.
WEEK 4 – The “Beyond” of Myths, Tales, and the Subconscious
Set out into your own dreams, imaginings, and speculations. You’ll be invited to use dreams as seeds of writing; to delve into the subconscious with creative meditation techniques; and to craft your own narratives in relation to pre-existing cultural material such as fairy tales and myths.
“Writing Beyond the Known,” was developed by Joanna Cooper. Joanna Penn Cooper writes and teaches flash memoir, lyric essays, and poetry, and she is the author of The Itinerant Girl’s Guide to Self-Hypnosis (Brooklyn Arts Press) and What Is a Domicile (Noctuary Press). Her work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day feature, as well as South Dakota Review, Vinyl, On the Seawall, Poetry International, and other journals. Joanna holds a Ph.D. in English from Temple University and an MFA from New England College, and in her teaching career, she has held full-time visiting positions at Marquette University and Fordham University. Joanna is a frequent contributor to Good Letters, the online component of Image Journal. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.