Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
Reading of selected texts to explore the ways in which literary journalism and related nonfiction modes formulate experience. Students write several short papers and one final project. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 20 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
To write convincingly and tell powerful stories that resonate, writers need to be meticulous, thorough reporters. LJ21 teaches students how to report their literary journalism articles accurately and thoroughly, focusing on the three basic means of gathering information for a story: interviewing, observing and reading. Early in the quarter, students will select a topic, or beat, as it is known in news parlance, from which they will develop contacts and story leads. Students will cover an event, conduct an interview and generate articles related to their beats, also learning ways to use Internet resources and databases to find facts and information and examining investigative and legal documents. The required prerequisite for either section of LJ 21 is satisfactory completion of the lower-division writing requirement.
Advanced Reporting asks students to complete a series of writing and multimedia assignments that require proficiency in varied reporting strategies such as interview, observation and research. Assignments will include profile, photo story, social problem/community reporting, and a final group digital project on a subject of our choosing. Guest speakers will offer insight into professional paths.
Narrative writing provides the foundation for much of what we call literary journalism. Writers in this field want to tell stories. They want to bring to nonfiction the sense of inner life usually found only in novels. How to write nonfiction prose that adopts the aims and techniques of the finest fiction? How to tell tales that read as if they were nonfiction short stories? These will be the central questions students in this class face. Students will look to nonfiction writers such as Gay Talese, Joan Didion and Michael Paterniti. Students will also do a good deal of their own narrative writing. This course is an advanced writing workshop: Students will regularly share their work with classmates in a constructive process of peer-review, then revise based on that feedback. By the end of the quarter, students will have produced a vignette, a character sketch and a major example of narrative writing.
Magazine writing takes many forms: the in-depth piece, the insightful personality profile, the short impressionistic story that usually runs in the front of the publication. When written with style and insight, all of these stories can embody the best of literary journalism. Many of America's finest nonfiction writers perfected their style when they were crafting these kinds of pieces. Students will have the opportunity to sharpen their storytelling skills by writing several types of articles. The foundation of this class is weekly one-on-one meetings with your editor (professor) where you will discuss how to come up with story ideas,how your stories were edited and how to improve them. This will give you the experience of shaping story ideas and honing your pieces with an editor. A number of accomplished writers will visit the class and talk about how they research and write. We will focus on the importance of insightful interviewing and dogged reporting. Students will learn to develop their own writing style by reading and analyzing a wide range of stories. The required prerequisite for this course is LJ101A.
The immigrant/migrant story is one of the defining experiences of modern California. In the 20th and 21st centuries, immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, and African American migrants from the U.S. South, and people from many other places, shaped the metropolis we know today. In this class, we will seek to create narrative art from these stories. Our goal will be to create works of literary nonfiction that convey the emotional, poetic, sociological and historical weight of the immigrant/migrant story in the Southern California metropolis. How do we tell these very dramatic tales while avoiding melodrama and cliché? What interviewing and reporting techniques should we use when our subjects have painful truths to share with us? How do we create vivid and textured descriptions of places that are far away in place and time? How far can we go in employing multiple languages and “code switching” in our writing? We will read from works of nonfiction and fiction that have told stories of people who have taken to the road, and crossed borders, seeking to reinvent and rescue themselves. Students will venture into a community, find and interview subjects, and write a series of shorter stories or one longer piece.

A cardinal rule of journalism is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. In this class we will study writers who shine a spotlight on injustice and how this spotlight can sometimes bring about justice. A writer uncovers a series of murders for financial gain on a Native American reservation. Corruption in a major religion in revealed. A quiet genocide takes place a Los Angeles neighborhood and no one seems to care. A man in Alabama commits numerous murders but is never convicted. Guest speakers will provide different perspectives on the criminal justice system. There will be a midterm, a final paper, and occasional quizzes.
For this class, we are going to read nonfiction and fiction on nature and on climate change, books that bring to life the grandeur of Earth and the terrible immediate problems facing the planet. We’ll use Bill McKibben’s anthology, American Earth, as a guiding work, but we may also read – in addition to McKibben -- such writers as Pulitzer prizewinning Annie Dillard, the great 1960s climate-change novelist J.G. Ballard, New Yorker environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert, Nobel prizewinner Svetlana Alexievich, bestselling novelist Barbara Kingsolver, activist/commentator Naomi Klein, and finally, British environmental activist and founder of Climate Outreach, George Marshall, as well as thinkers and experts who have developed the fields of environmental justice and just sustainability. We’ll consider how an appreciation of and connection to the natural world can allow us to think more clearly about the real meaning and danger of climate change. We’ll explore the ways in which our natural love of story means that both fiction and nonfiction can help us understand the imminence of the disaster, and we’ll discover how greater knowledge may aid us in mitigating the catastrophe.