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The Legacy of Storytelling

Amaris Ketcham,
Core: Humanities


In the 1970s, a new genre of writing came into the scene of American literature. This genre featured factual information, but it stole scenes and narrative structure from fiction, lyricism and experimentation from poetry. The author could be subjective and could refer to him or herself with the pronoun “I” within the text; they could allow their mind to work on the page, to explore the question “What do I know?” instead of assert knowledge. The writing was artful and often unforgettable. There was debate among writers and scholars about what to call this “fourth genre”: literature of fact, literary nonfiction, or narrative nonfiction…before tentatively agreeing on “creative nonfiction.” But creative nonfiction isn’t really new—one of the earliest texts dates back to 2700 B.C.E. Through the origins of creative nonfiction, this course will tour the world and learn about ancient peoples’ day-to-day realities, beliefs, and styles of self-expression. We will land in America in 1969, where we will follow the journey of the literary essay to the present day. Students will have the opportunity to contribute to this rich history by writing their own works of of creative nonfiction.


A course reader that spans from “The List of Ziusudra” from 2700 B.C.E. Sumer, Shonagon's “The Pillow Book” from 11th century Japan, de Sahagun's "Definitions of Earthly Things” from colonial Mexico, Montaigne's 15th century "assays" in France, to contemporary greats such as John McPhee, Anne Lamott, John D'Agata, and Barry Lopez. We will also review a selection of Creative Nonfiction magazines.


Students are required to come to class and generously participate in class discussions, write an imitation essay and research paper, perform one class presentation, and write one short research paper.


Amaris Ketcham earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University. Amaris has published essays, poetry, and short fiction in a variety of magazines, anthologies, and online venues. Her teaching interests include creative writing, fine arts, graphic design, and print and digital production. She currently serves as the Faculty Advisor for Scribendi, the Honors College and Western Regional Honors Council literature and arts magazine.