University of Technology Sydney

57031 Creative Non-fiction

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Journalism and Writing
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Creative non-fiction is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives; however, the conventions and boundaries of both the 'creative' and the 'real' are the subject of lively and continuing debate. This subject explores the history, possibilities, boundaries, and contexts of contemporary literary non-fiction. It encourages students to explore the scope of the genre as widely as possible as they develop two pieces of creative work (a literary essay and a portrait) in a workshop environment. Each class acts as a space in which students deepen their understanding of the genre, by analysing and discussing published work alongside their own and their peers'. This subject explores the personal and lyric essay (and their differences from the academic or argumentative essay); form, technique, voice and the use of material detail and fact; and the rich variety of approaches (including profile, memoir, lyric essay-portrait) to writing about human subjects.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Develop a comphrehensive understanding of the genre of creative non-fiction and the forms in which the student is writing (its market?)
b. Understand a diverse range of forms and approaches critically in relation to their own work, with an eye to deepening and extending their own chosen form
c. Demonstrate writerly skills appropriate to genre, which include: balanccing fact and creative technique; voice; structure (sections, paragraphs, use of space); pacing; sophistication of language; correct spelling and grammar
d. Deliver writing to a standard appropriate to the genre and/or industry
e. Bring focused critical skills to bear on their own and other's non-fiction writing

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Write to a publishable standard across a range of genres, demonstrating an advanced understanding of the appropriate use of different writing forms (1.1)
  • Critically and reflexively engage in research and writing practice for a major work with a high degree of personal autonomy and accountability (2.3)
  • Convey complex ideas in writing clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences, across a range of media formats (6.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

Face-to-face classes will include interactive lectures with group activities, seminar discussions and analysis of readings, as well as group workshopping of student work and peer feedback activities within and outside of class. The workshop environment provides a collaborative learning environment for the production and revision of new creative work, and a supportive space for critical reflection on the writing process. Teaching and learning strategies will include practical writing exercises, the preparation and use of two “dossiers” (one on a thing and another on a person) for discussion and in-class writing exercises, and interviewing work inside and outside the classroom in preparation for the second assignment. Students will access and read pre-class learning materials and set readings through UTSOnline to support participation in active learning tasks both within class (for example, writing exercises) and outside (research for both assignments).Both assignments reflect the formats, word length and expectations of professional practice (authentic assessment), with the aim that students can submit work from this course to a range of professional publications, which will be discussed in class.

Content (topics)

This subject involves creative and theoretical exploration of the history and contemporary practice of creative nonfiction and continuing debates around the definition of the genre. Students engage in a creative development process at the same time as reading and critically analyzing set texts. The subject develops students’ awareness of the possibilities of literary non-fiction writing and provides critical debate on the accepted limits and boundaries of writing creative non-fiction.


Assessment task 1: The Essay


a, b, c, d and e

Weight: 50%

2000 Words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Appropriateness and originality in choice of topic, form and structure 30 a, b 1.1
Consistency and sophistication of structure and technique (including voice), within a framework of intellectual and/or personal inquiry. 45 a, b, c, d, e 2.3
Clarity of expression: engaging the reader while also using correct and clear English expression and sentence construction. 25 c, d, e 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Portrait


a, c, d and e

Weight: 50%

2000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Inventiveness and originality of writing in composing a compelling portrait of the chosen subject. 33 a, c, d 1.1
Structure and consistency of writing in developing and angle or 'line' on its subject. 34 a, c, e 2.3
Expression and presentation in line with professional standards. 33 c, d, e 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Students are expected to read the subject outline to ensure they are familiar with the subject requirements. Since class discussion and participation in activities form an integral part of this subject, you are expected to attend, having read the required ereadings and/or prepared requested material, and actively participate in classes. If you experience difficulties meeting this requirement, please contact your lecturer. Students who have a reason for extended absence (e.g. illness) may be required to complete additional work to ensure they achieve the subject objectives.

Classes are based on a collaborative approach that involves essential work-shopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor.

Required texts

Ereadings for this subject are available from the UTS Library under the course number for this subject and also via links in Weekly Readings for this subject in UTS Online. (Please keep an eye on Weekly Readings as readings will occasionally change in response to class discussion and on request).

Recommended texts

Bloom, L.Z., 2003, "Living to Tell the Tale: The Complicated Ethics of Creative Nonfiction," College English, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 276-289.

D'Agata, J., 2009, The Lost Origins of the Essay, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

D'Agata, J., 2003, The Next American Essay, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Forché, C. & Gerard, P., eds., 2001, Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and Insights from the Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs, Story Press, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Herzog, W. 2010, "On the Absolute, the Sublime, and Ecstatic Truth". (Herzog is a film director and the subject of this speech is documentary film but it raises interesting questions about the truth claims and controversies around factual art).

Joseph, S., 2016, Behind the Text: Candid Conversations with Austrailan Creative Nonfiction Writers, Hybrid Press, Melbourne.

Kramer, M., & Call, W., eds., 2007, Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University Plume, New York.

Lopate, P., 1997, The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, Anchor Books, New York.

Lopate,P., 2013, To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction, Free Press, New York.

Shields, D., 2010, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Hamish Hamilton, London.

Tumarkin, M., 2014, "This Narrated Life," Griffith Review 44, pp. 175-184.

Wolfe, T., 1972, The New Journalism (esp. Preface, on ereadings).

Zinsser, W., 1998, On Writing Well, HarperCollins, New York.

Other useful resources are:

The Nieman Storyboard website, out of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The Australian journal The Lifted Brow's set of links to experimental nonfiction:

The Monthly, Meanjin and Island Magazine.


Please refer to the Ereadings in this subject in the Subject Outline, UTS Online and in the Library catalogue.