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ACE2449 Memoir Writing in Focus. Writing the Personal, Lyric and Creative Non-Fiction Essay (Bishoptown Library)

Started 29 Jan 2024

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Full course description

Course Overview:

This course will be divided into two parts of 4 weeks each. In the first part of the course we will learn about bringing one’s own life to the page and the consequent blurring of fictional boundaries in the endlessly debated genre known as autofiction, and various controversies surrounding the form whilst telling our own stories and creating new potential narratives. Looking at the work of great authors such as Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Ben Lerner, Deborah Levy, Claudia Rankine, Lucia Berlin and Annie Ernaux amongst others, we will explore the radical openness and transparency the form offers us and what writer David Shields describes as ‘the lure and blur of the real’. We will aim to produce one piece of longer work or alternatively two micro flash CNF pieces with the opportunity to workshop the piece and receive constructive feedback. We will talk about possible venues for the work and how to present your work as a pitch or finished piece for publication. In the second part of the course we will look at the resurgence of the ‘lyrical essay’ a hybrid form of creative non-fiction which can comprise a combination of literary essay, poetry and memoir. Reading the work of contemporary writers such as Brandon Taylor, Tice Cin and Zadie Smith we will discuss examples of the lyric essay to show how much diversity there is in the form and the ways contemporary subjects on anything from fast fashion to Tinder can be woven into lyric essays. This will also include the opportunity to develop and workshop one idea for a lyric essay.


Course Practicalities:

This course will be divided into two parts of 4 weeks each.

This course will run for 8 weeks on Mondays from 11am-1pm from Monday 29th of January until Monday 8th of April 2024 (excluding bank holidays 5 February, 18 March and 1 April) in Bishopstown Library, Wilton Co Cork. 

Closing date for applicaitons: Monday, 22nd January, 2024.


Course Content: 

Week 1 – Brief Introductions, free writing, reading around personal memoir essay genre. In-class writing exercise, discussing historical proponents of the form such as Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Joan Didion etc.

Week 2 – Autofiction. Free writing, the ‘French school’ – looking at Proust, Annie Ernaux, Marguerite Duras and Hervé Guibert and modern autofiction writers such as Lauren Elkin, Nina Bouraoui and others. Class discussion and writing exercise. Exercise set for homework.

Week 3 – Dismantling autofiction. Free writing. Discussion on the broaching of a new form of storystelling focusing on intersectionality, gender, race, and feminism in the genre, looking at mainly American- based writers such as Audre Lorde, Ocean Vuong, Ben Lerner and Eula Bliss. Class discussion and writing exercise.

Week 4 – Deborah Levy and the living autobiography. We will discuss Levy’s work including her trio of ‘living’ autofictional work, her preceding novels and discuss the possibilities and the ramifications of blurring life and literature. Workshopping of week 2 exercise.

Week 5 – The history of the lyric essay and criticism by John D’Agata and Deborah Tall. We will discuss Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book and excerpts from Citizen by Claudia Rankine and Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Free writing, reading of different examples of the form, class discussion and writing exercise centred on topic, subject selection and chronology. Exercise set for homework.

Week 6 – We will discuss Irish writers using the form today such as Joanna Walsh, Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Sinéad Gleeson as well as examples of the lyric essay in literary journals and small presses. Free writing, responding to theme. Class discussion and writing exercise.

Week 7 – Workshopping of Week 5 homework and class discussion. Discussion of place, music and language in lyrical essays with reference to the work of Natalia Ginzburg and Amy Key amongst others. Editing and proofreading your work. Workshopping of class exercise pieces.

Week 8 – Modern hybrid styles explored, finding your personal comfort zone within the genre. Submitting your work. Questions and answers and close 2nd reading of previously workshopped pieces if desired. Special guest reading.


Course Lecturer: 

Lucy Holme is a writer and mother from Kent who lives in Cork, Ireland. She gained a BA in English at Manchester University and then travelled the world, working in the private yachting industry as a chief stewardess and purser. A trained wine sommelier onboard yachts and in the restaurant industry in London, she spent ten years studying for her wine diploma whilst raising three small children and working in the wine industry in Cork City. Her poems feature in PN Review, The London Magazine, The Stinging Fly, Southword, Atrium, Poetry Wales, Wild Court and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal amongst others. She was shortlisted for The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2023 and for The Red Line Poetry Competition and her debut chapbook, Temporary Stasis, which was shortlisted for The Patrick Kavanagh Award, was published by Broken Sleep Books in August 2022. She was granted an agility award by the Arts Council this year to work on her first full poetry collection. She was a runner up in Southword’s Literary Essay Competition 2023 and her CNF features in The Pig’s Back, Banshee, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and Annie Journal, and is forthcoming in Southword. A collection of personal essays will be published by Broken Sleep Books in September 2024. She holds an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from UCC and is currently studying for a PhD in Poetry also at UCC. She is co-editor of new Cork based literary and visual arts journal, The Four Faced Liar.



Entry Requirements:

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.

Contact Details for Further Information:



Please note our refund policy as follows:
100% refund  if student cancels before course commencement
100% refund if student's course is cancelled due to insufficient numbers. 
If the student cancels after the first week of the course - full refund minus €50 processing fee 
If the student cancels after the second week of the course - no refund