Writing for Your Life

Fall 2018
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 50
16 Credits per quarter
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Lively writing: that’s our measure of student success this quarter. Writing is a sure antidote to the deadeningness of our hyper-busyness, to our device-mediated alienation, to anxiety (both the more or less well-grounded sort and the free-floating varieties), and to other social and psychological snares of our times. Our touchstone for this work is a group of four writers, all “Catholic writers,” from the middle decades of the 20th century: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. They wrote their ways through the Great Depression, WWII, racial segregation and the struggles for civil rights, assassinations of major political leaders, wars and other violences large and small, as well as through personal troubles, diseases, and doubts, but in their own ways they all kept their spirits alive. Starting with the four-person collective biography, The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie, we’ll follow these folks to see where they might point us in our times. We’ll read many kinds of writing from our four principals and from their contemporaries and others: James Baldwin, Simone Weil, Malcom X, D. T. Suzuki, Martin Luther King Jr., Leonard Cohen, Alice Walker, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, all of whom also kept their spirits alive. Our writing textbooks are Coates's We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy and Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness.

In addition to our common readings, every student will pursue an independent study of an author or a theme of their choice. Students should anticipate devoting 10 hours each week to their independent work. Jointly authored projects are welcome.

We’ll write a lot. We’ll learn how to know when we’re writing well. We’ll support one another in and through our writing. Students will learn to edit others’ work. Students will participate in peer group meetings each week so that everyone, regardless of class level, gets what they need. It could be an enlivening time.


Fall 2018 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16): 10020
So - Sr (16): 10023

Academic details

Fields of Study
Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing
$10 for the spring 2018 issue of The Atlantic (50th anniversary of MLK's death)
Research Opportunities

Students will pursue an independent study of a particular author or a theme. Students will devote 10 hours per week to this work. They may work in groups and submit joint projects. 


In Person or Remote
In Person
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 C1105 - Lecture


Date Revision
2018-07-25 $10 fee added for the spring 2018 issue of The Atlantic