Writing Creative Essays module (EN31028)

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Module code



This module is about reading and thinking to write and using writing and reading to think. The module introduces you to the essay as a malleable form of creative non-fiction - more heuristic than epistemic - the kind of writing that involves creating a textual landscape that you explore through reading and research, and where you are able to acknowledge uncertainty, subjectivity, contingency along the way. This module explores what "essaying" might be ‚Äí not simply a display of knowledge, a polemic or an argument where the outcome is known from the start, but one where reading and writing (and learning) is imagined as a journey and as an activity. As Paul Heilker writes, essaying should be thought of less as an object or genre but "intellectual freedom is enacted as a movement" in writing.

Taught through a thematic cluster of ideas, and also borrowing from different disciplines (literature, anthropology, philosophy, geography, history, life writing), and undertaken in thematic clusters, this module provides you opportunities to inhabit and be challenged by the module reading reading, and to ideas creatively. In classroom seminars and workshops, and also on the move, you will be continually journeying. You might undertake seminars in a classroom or visit a museum, an art gallery, a local garden, or an archive. You will be asked to read and engage with conceptual and literary texts, reflect on the ideas and experiences in them and put your own expressively on the page. Some of that journeying might be unsettling, and we certainly hope you would be challenged, but we hope also to take to heart what TS Eliot advised, "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." If you want to write creatively about ideas then this team-taught module is for you!

Indicative topics:

The essay as form
Walking and writing
Spaces and non-places
Strangers and Others
Writing the Body
Field Notes and Claiming Space
Writing about Home
Writing from the archive


This team-taught interdisciplinary module is taught through a mixture of seminars and workshops, and lectures. 


  • Reading & Writing Journal 50%
  • Essay 50%


Lex Williford and Michael Martone, Touchstone Anthology of Creative Non-Fiction (New York: Touchstone , 2007)
Cynthia Ozick, 'She: Portrait of an essay as a warm body', The Atlantic Monthly, 282(3), 1998
Judith Kitchen, "Grounding the Lyric essay" , Fourth Genre 13(2), 2011 (available online through the Library via ProQuest Literature Online).
Marcia Aldrich, 'Interview with Brenda Miller', Fourth Genre: Explorations in Non-fiction 11(2), 2009, pp. 137-149 (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/362761/pdf)
Chris Arthur, 'A Blind Spot in the Ornithology of Letters' 
Carl H Klaus, The Made-up Self (Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2010); available through Project Muse.
Philip Lopate, To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Non-fiction (Free Press, 2013)
William Max Nelson, "Five Ways of Being in a Painting" in Five Ways of Being in a Painting and Other Essays (NHE, 2017)
Stephen Benson and Clare Connors, Creative Criticism: An Anthology and Guide (EUP, 2014)
Emma Boland, "Writing imaginary footnotes for Maria Fusco’s Legend of the Necessary Dreamer", in Minor Literature[s], 2017 
Robert Minto, "The Gesture of the Text" https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/the-gesture-of-the-text/

Module Aims

To provide a theme-focused writing and thinking outlet for humanities-based disciplines

To develop study of the essay as a literary and creative genre through a range of canonical and contemporary texts

To introduce students to forms of creative non-fiction such as the lyric essay, the memoir, ficto-criticism and the personal essay.

To explore boundaries between the essay and other forms of literary writing such as poetry, fiction, oration and monologues in productive expressive ways

To develop awareness of writing through familiarity with issues related to poetics, and the development of a literary “sensibility”

To enable students to expand their thinking about the possibilities and challenges of the essay as a creative genre

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  1. to manage their writing projects, and develop the ability to write for different audiences, and in different registers, styles, formats and media;
  2. show an understanding of the creative process, issues and theory relating to it
  3. show awareness of rhetoric, style and genre
  4. show critical awareness of their own work and to reflect constructively on the student’s own process and product.
  5.  to analyse and discuss the work and process of other writers,
  6. show a confident and informed evaluation of their own and others’ work.
  7.  develop their own creative material and to work to a given brief; and to be analytical of their own writing and process
  8. effectively communicate concrete ideas, abstract concepts, and information using the written word
  9. reflect on the creative process and the body of written works that surrounds it
  10. have developed strategies to draw upon and record their personal experience and research, and to synthesize these in an imaginative form
  11. write creatively with confidence and with an awareness of tone, structure, genre, audience
  12. have developed a deep understanding from their own reading and practice in order to discuss the key elements of different forms of writing