Course Descriptions


Winter Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Reading of selected texts to explore the ways in which literary journalism and related nonfiction modes formulate experience. Students write several short papers and one final project. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 20 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
Reading of selected texts to explore the ways in which literary journalism and related nonfiction modes formulate experience. Students write several short papers and one final project. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 20 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
To write convincingly and tell powerful stories that resonate, writers need to be meticulous, thorough reporters. LJ21 teaches students how to report their literary journalism articles accurately and thoroughly, focusing on the three basic means of gathering information for a story: interviewing, observing and reading. Early in the quarter, students will select a topic, or beat, as it is known in news parlance, from which they will develop contacts and story leads. Students will cover an event, conduct an interview and generate articles related to their beats, also learning ways to use Internet resources and databases to find facts and information and examining investigative and legal documents. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 21 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
Advanced Reporting asks students to complete a series of writing and multimedia assignments that require proficiency in varied reporting strategies such as interview, observation and research. Assignments will include profile, photo story, social problem/community reporting, and a final group digital project on a subject of our choosing. Guest speakers will offer insight into professional paths.
The "New Journalism" that began to appear in the 1960s was far from "new." Writers have long strived to craft nonfiction that adopts the aims, techniques and standards of the finest fiction. In this course students will study some of those writers, among them Stephen Crane, Jack London and George Orwell. Students will then look at how the early pioneers inspired and influenced later literary journalists such as John Hersey, Lillian Ross, A.J. Liebling, Joseph Mitchell, Truman Capote, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and Michael Herr. At each stage, our central focus will be the evolution of ethics in literary journalism. Covenants with readers versus covenants with subjects; fundamental truth versus factual accuracy; the blurred lines between fiction and journalism; entering the minds of your characters; reconstructing past events; imposing meaning by seeing /stories/ in situations---literary journalists wrestle with these issues constantly. So will we in this course.
Magazine writing takes many forms: the in-depth piece, the insightful personality profile, the short impressionistic story that usually runs in the front of the publication. When written with style and insight, all of these stories can embody the best of literary journalism. Many of America's finest nonfiction writers perfected their style when they were crafting these kinds of pieces. Students will have the opportunity to sharpen their storytelling skills by writing several types of articles. The foundation of this class is weekly one-on-one meetings with your editor (professor) where you will discuss how to come up with story ideas,how your stories were edited and how to improve them. This will give you the experience of shaping story ideas and honing your pieces with an editor. A number of accomplished writers will visit the class and talk about how they research and write. We will focus on the importance of insightful interviewing and dogged reporting. Students will learn to develop their own writing style by reading and analyzing a wide range of stories. The required prerequisite for this course is LJ101A.
A man jumps from a Manhattan skyscraper and nosedives to his death, a fire ravages a college dorm in the middle of the night, a little girl is murdered by an internet predator, a band of terrorists take an elementary school full of children hostage. For each event, headlines around the world captured the breaking news. But the stories were not over. Weeks after the stories broke, the most compelling details had yet to be reported. Some of the best literary journalists find gripping stories by going back to the scene and interviewing sources weeks, months or even years after the news broke. In this class we will learn to search newspapers and blogs for story ideas that the daily media may have missed and we will learn to go back after a story has become ?old news,? after the daily reporters have left. We will study how literary journalists reconstruct events after they have occurred, and we will read writers like Tom Junod, Robin Gaby Fisher and other reporters who found unique angles on widely reported events.We will also learn to pay attention to news nuggets that are often ignored or quickly dismissed. Students will learn to find story ideas in news briefs, blurbs or items that received only a passing mention on the evening news, keeping in mind that these can often lead to the most riveting profiles and narratives. In this class, students will be expected to work on their narrative writing skills and interviewing techniques, and they will be required to find, pitch, report, and write their own stories off the news.
From the slums of Mumbai, to the gang neighborhoods of Watts; from the classrooms of South Central Los Angeles and the remote villages of the Amazon, to the war-torn streets of Iraq, journalists seek out places most people avoid, and they return to tell stories that shed light on important issues and serious social problems. The books we read follow the paths of these journalists who enter dangerous and unfamiliar areas, report at their peril and return to illuminate misunderstood parts of the world. As we shadow the writers on these journeys, we discuss how they were able to obtain access into these worlds, gain the trust of the residents, transcend stereotypes, and tell stories that were not simply dry recitations of facts, problems and solutions, but compelling narratives. We discuss poverty, discrimination, and inequality in this class. We also study the art of storytelling, including how to engage the reader, how to create a page-turning story arc, how to make characters come alive. We break down the books in order to understand the writers' styles and their approaches. This class will be helpful for those who are interested in becoming writers, as well as students who simply love good writing and good storytelling. Several of the writers we read will visit the class and discuss the dangers they faced, the risks they encountered and their research methods and writing techniques.
Legal Narratives is a class that explores how journalists mine the legal system, from murder trials to the civil system, for material with which to build stories. Readings will include a wide variety of newspaper and magazine stories which rely on courtroom access and/or legal documents, such as Anne Hull’s series “Metal to Bone” in the St. Petersburg Times and Pamela Colloff’s work in Texas Monthly. We will explore the choices that writers make in building their narratives, and how they reflect the writers’ preoccupations with larger themes, such as the nature of justice, its elusiveness, and the endless gray areas with which the law grapples. The cases under scrutiny often become windows into social and psychological questions, and we will explore how legal narratives—a subset of the “true crime” genre—reflect the zeitgeist.
In Memoir, we’ll be listening to many different voices. Michelle Zauner will sob over her mother’s death in the aisles of H-Mart, and Chloe Cooper Jones will tell us how life has worked for a person born with a severe disability. In his memoirist’s autofiction, Teju Cole will take us back to Lagos, Nigeria, where many members of his extended family still live. Christian Livermore will explain how the extreme poverty of her family contributed to her descent into substance abuse from earlier successes as a figure skater and Ivy League student. We will also read excerpts from Mark Twain’s Roughing It, and several early writers of memoir. Listening to these and other competing and complicated voices, we will find out what memoir reliably consists of and what are the ways in which different writers begin to address the narratives of their own lives. How much truth is there in a memoir, and how much invention. When is invention permissible, if ever? Do you own the story of your life in any meaningful way? Do you really have to or really want to alter its true contours? What are the motivations for memoir: for example, revenge, therapy, closure, understanding? Why is the trauma or abuse narrative so popular in current memoir literature, and how can hard-knocks be written without falling into the usual abyss-to-redemption cliché? While reading others, we’ll also discuss our own lives, and how we might approach them ourselves if we ever envisioned writing a memoir.
No detailed description available.