Literary Non-Fiction

I am about to start my night class for this semester, Literary Non-Fiction Workshop, to give it it’s full title, and we are discussing the slippery nature of what is “non-fiction”, or more correctly, what is “literary” non-fiction.

On the outset, it seems painfully obvious what “non-fiction” is. Anything that isn’t fiction, right? Well, yes. And literary non-fiction seems almost as non-sequiturian. If something is literary, that just means it is a form of writing, right?

That kind of reasoning might work for the normal person at home, but for someone like me: the “English Major” at a slightly-stuffy high brow aspiring liberal arts college, than that reasoning definitely does not work.

To begin, “literary” is a form of writing, a classification. It is a separation from journalism, and “dry” reporting (though I am well aware that some journalism is very captivating, as Richard Gere says in Runaway Bride “Journalism is great literature…in a hurry!”). There is also memoir and autobiography, which are not the same thing. Biography, and the collections of letters or other correspondence. Oh yeah, and lumped in there are technical journals and other writing that certainly isn’t fiction, but probably isn’t literary either.

And, I should leave it at that, as I haven’t explored the topic further, and class is about to begin, and since there are only seven of us I can’t get away with ignoring the prof.