English Department Reinstates Creative Nonfiction Position

Daniel Kim

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For the 2014-15 academic year, the English department will offer Whitman College students various supplementary courses in creative nonfiction that will be taught by new Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Kisha Schlegel.

Photo by Marra Clay

The new position was created in response to the demand from students for a nonfiction writing curriculum. Prior to the conversion of this new position, former Associate Professor of English Irvin Hashimoto held a position in composition before retiring last year. Schlegel will teach the class Intermediate Nonfiction next semester in addition to two other classes.

“Nonfiction, increasingly one of the most popular genres in which to work––one that is generating a lot of discussion and to which many in other genres are ‘defecting’––does not currently have a well-established track for further study in nonfiction [at Whitman],” Gregory M. Cowan Professor of English Language and Literature Theresa DiPasquale wrote in a document arguing for the position in 2012.

The English department thought that offering tracks for students who are interested in nonfiction was necessary, especially since a position had become vacated due to Hashimoto’s retirement.

“I wrote to argue that the English department should retain the position vacated by Irvin Hashimoto’s retirement and convert it from a position in composition to one in creative nonfiction,” said DiPasquale.

With the new addition of a nonfiction track, students pursuing their interests in nonfiction will now have that option with the availability of regularly offered intermediate and advanced-level nonfiction courses.

“This hire will allow us to offer English 322 regularly and to add a regularly-offered intermediate-level course in creative nonfiction, thus giving students whose interest in creative nonfiction has been piqued by English 150 a track to follow in this genre,” said DiPasquale.

Schlegel was a teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, where she was studying in the MFA program for three years. She moved here last year when her husband, Visiting Assistant Professor of English Robert Schlegel, received a position at Whitman.

“I think that’s why I’m so in love with the essay, that it’s so much like life. It moves, it shifts, it breathes and it’s very much based on your life experiences, based on your research, based on argument and conversation, your dialogue. All of these things can be wrapped into questions and enigmas in the essay,” said Kisha Schlegel.

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Photo by Marra Clay

Kisha Schlegel will be offering Intermediate Nonfiction for students who are interested in nonfiction, and the course will focus on the essays and its form. Two other classes she will offer are the HumAnimal and Introduction to Creative Writing. In the spring, she will teach an advanced course in which the students will be generating a lot of material, experimenting and talking about the work.

“I appreciate the students at Whitman and they gave me on-the-ground insight into their curiosity and commitment to their interests. The faculty and staff is on your team and very much here for each other. They want to be in conversation with each other, learn about each other’s work and you don’t find that everywhere. To be in that healthy academic environment while also trying to be a creative person is very important,” said Schlegel.

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