Professor Landow (office: 338 Carr House; e-mail:; office hours: Monday, 11-12 am. Class meets 10-10:50am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Salomon 202.

Note: Check this on-line reading list at the beginning of each week since assignments may change or be reordered.

Writing assignments

Weeks 1 and 2 Wednesday 26 January through 4 February. A. Defining Genre or Mode — What is nonfiction? B. The Modern Sage as Exegete of the Real Reading: Joan Didion, The White Album. [reading questions]; A Master of Satire: Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal" [textreading questions]

Week 3 Monday, 7-11 February. Wisdom Speakers: Montaigne and Johnson. Reading: Michel de Montaigne, "Of Cannibals" [textreading questions]; Suggested readings: relevant section of Elegant Jeremiahs.

Week 4. 14-18 February. Samuel Johnson, selected essays: Rambler 172, 180, 182, 184, 196, Adventurer 50, 84, 108. See the reading and discussion questions plus genre and style section. Translation exercise (or style is a mode of thought): Reading: Tom Wolfe, "The Pump House Gang." Assignment due Wednesday, 23 February: translate three paragraphs of Johnson into Wolfe's prose and three of Wolfe's into Johnson's [Recommended reading: reading and discussion questions for Wolfe].

Week 5. 23-25 February. Translation exercise discussion The Victorian Sages (I): Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle, "Signs of the Times" (text) "Hudson's Statue" (annotated text and commentary); Carlyle on Johnson (from Heroes and Hero-Worship) [text]. Reading questions due Wednesday, 23 February. Suggested readings: relevant section of Elegant Jeremiahs

Week 6. 28 February-4 March. [schedule to be adjusted] The Victorian Sages (II): John Ruskin. Unto This Last, “Traffic,” and “The Lamp of Memory” from The Seven Lamps of Architecture; and “The Quarry” from The Stones of Venice

Week 7. 7-11 March. The Sage and Wisdom Speaker Parodied: Max Beerbohm, "A Defence of Cosmetics" [text], "Diminuendo" [text]; Richard La Gallienne, "The Boom in Yellow" [text]; Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying" [text]; Walter Pater, "The Preface," "Conclusion," and section on La Giocanda (i.e, Mona Lisa) from The Renaissance.

Week 8. 14-18 March. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage (1): Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia.[Reading and discussion questions]

Week 9. 21-25 March. The Sage as Traveler, the Traveler as Sage (2) : John McPhee, The Crofter and the Laird. Reading and discussion questions.

[Spring Recess 26 March-3 April.]

Week 10. 3-8 April. The Sage in Search of a Hero: Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff. [Reading and discussion questions]

Week 11. 11-15 April The Sage as (Mental) Traveler, the Traveler as Sage: Annie Dillard. A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. [Reading and discussion questions]

Weeks 12. 18-22 April. The Autobiographer as Sage: Sara Suleri, Meatless Days. :

Group discussions

Week 13. 25-29 April May. Creative Nonfiction in the Age of the Internet. Assignments: Devaney Bennett, Sugar (and Biography); Steve Cook, INF (L) ECTIONS: Writing as Virus, Hypertext as Meme; Tao Ikai, Electronic Zen; Patricia Tomaszek, Planting trees out of the grief: In Memoriam to Robert Creeley.

Related Resources

Some Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Writing

Mechanical Matters — Punctuation and Diction


Weekly discussion questions. The course, which combines approaches employed both seminars in literary criticism and in writing workshops, relies heavily on student-centered discussion generated by the weekly writing assignments. These assignments range from imitations of techniques employed by writers we read to discussion questions about their work. These reading and discussion question have several required parts:

These exercises, which provide the basis of class discussion, should be e-mailed to me no later than 6 pm Monday before we begin discussing the reading. (You can skip a single set of questions during the semester, and we may not have one the final week of classes.) Follow for an example of question set from an earlier iteration course.

Final Project. The final project, which takes the place of a final examination, should demonstrate your knowledge of the techniques and authors discussed during the semester. It can take various forms, including a substantial work of creative nonfiction based on research personally carried out in the field or a substantial critical essay. The critical essay, in turn, can take various forms including an essay of 20 pages or an experimental electronic project in hypertext, hypermedia, flash or other medium. Both electronic and print-based creative nonfiction projects require an introduction explaining how they relate to the issues of the course. [Projects from last year's class: creative nonfiction, critical essays, and a hypertext]


  1. Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia. Summit.
  2. Didion, Joan. The White Album.
  3. Dillard, Annie. A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
  4. McPhee, John. The Crofter and the Laird. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
  5. Ruskin, John. Unto this Last and Other Writings. Penguin.
  6. Suleri, Sara. Meatless Days. University of Chicago.
  7. Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. Bantam.

Victorian Web Victorian courses

Last modified 29 April 2011