“The beauty of creative nonfiction,” one avid beginner announced in an autobiographical writing class, “is that anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime, by just writing down what happened and sending it in to be published.” In his naiveté, this student unknowingly contradicted the traditional image of personal writers holed up in cold garrets with only a moldy piece of cheese in the pantry. Coolly unaware of the demands of the genre, he likewise discounted his own privileged situation: the opportunity to take small classes at a liberal arts place like Rollins College, the time and resources (both financial and technological) to pursue introspection, and the luxury of supportive peers who shared his general vision of the world. This is not to trivialize either creative nonfiction or the power of reflective writing. Introspection, after all, is a major approach to comprehending our own viewpoints and learning to look beyond them. Given the intensity of such forms, though, it is essential that teachers, readers, and writers acknowledge the privilege sometimes inherent in their practice. Though we want students to care deeply, to celebrate the earth and its diversity, we do not want them merely to feel for suffering. We want them to be less classist, to recognize the problems of entitlement and take action against them. We want them to create diverse communities. And so we must choose pedagogies which introduce rigorous scrutiny of students’ perspectives in relation to the situations of the disenfranchised.
|Keywords:||Creative Nonfiction, Celebrating Diversity, Classism, Collaborative Research, Countering Privilege, Deconstructing Texts, Entitlement, Introspective Learning, Pedagogy of Creative Nonfiction, Privilege|
Professor of English, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA
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