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ENGL327 The Essay: Creative Non-Fiction

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Researching and writing creative non-fiction aimed at a general audience, with an emphasis upon revision for publication.

ENGL 327 is intended to follow up the teaching in ENGL 127 and ENGL 227 on composition, rhetoric and 'creative (or 'literary') non-fiction', and a high level of competence in writing correct and pleasurably readable English prose will be assumed. Preference will be given to students who have taken these papers. The paper is aimed at later-year students, who may be expected to have developed a general view of some discipline or other in their major, or it may be an opportunity for pursuing some non-academic avocation of their own.

ENGL 327 is a project-centred paper, in which students will choose and research a topic of their own choice (subject to approval), with the aim of producing a popularly-oriented non-fiction text which exhibits the fruits of sound scholarship. There has recently been something of a boom in the reading and writing of non-fiction. In particular, there is the phenomenon of relatively brief texts that are sometimes referred to as 'biographies of things' or 'minutiae books', that deal with some vivid and highly specific subject, often in science or history. We will study the structures and strategies of a number of published texts of this kind, examining their structure and style, and the variety of sub-genres that can be deployed in writing creative non-fiction.

Paper title The Essay: Creative Non-Fiction
Paper code ENGL327
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,073.40

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18 200-level ENGL points
SCOM 427
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Students who have not passed the normal prerequisite may be admitted with approval from the Head of Department.
Teaching staff
Convenor and Lecturer: Dr Paul Tankard
Paper Structure
Lectures on the genres of non-fiction.
Study of a variety of extended texts of popular non-fiction writing.
All assessment internal.
Teaching Arrangements
13 lectures
8 work/seminars, including exercises for assessment
  • Simon Winchester, The Surgeon of Crowthorne (1998)
  • Mary Roach, Stiff (2003)
  • Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012)
  • Lilian Ross, Reporting Always (2015)
  • Nicholas Carr, The Shallows (2010)
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will

  • Research an appropriate non-fictional subject of their own choice
  • Identify and deploy a range of approaches to writing about the subject
  • Demonstrate and practise an awareness of a range of non-fictional writing skills
  • Develop editing skills
  • Produce a major prose work on the subject, suitable for a general readership

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-40


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
T1 Wednesday 11:00-12:50 29-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-40
T2 Thursday 16:00-17:50 29-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-40