Creative Nonfiction is similar to “literary nonfiction.” It is NOT standard daily journalistic prose; i.e., it does not follow a formula dictated by space, “fairness” and 8th-grade reading level constraints. Instead, it makes use of the full range of literary techniques and elements employed by writers of other genres, including fiction, poetry, and playwriting. It is not constrained by subject matter or voice or point of view. It consists of many sub-genres, including the classic essay (Montaigne), the personal essay (Lopate), the memoir (Terry Tempest Williams), certain styles of autobiography, biography and criticism (Ozick), some travel and nature writing (McPhee), the literary journal (Sarton) and, of course, works of literary or “new” journalism, for example, the highly stylized nonfiction of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag,
Tom Wolfe and/or Truman Capote. Although CNF implies a contract with the reader as to the veracity of its prose, its attempt to communicate “real life” must always be viewed somewhat skeptically, in the light of authorial subjectivity and selectivity. Truth in its broadest sense (and not factual accuracy in its narrowest) is the goal of CNF.
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