Writing Literary Non-fiction - Online writing courses | Arts and Science Online

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Writing Literary Non-fiction

WRIT 290/3.0

A study of the essay as a literary form, including analysis of readings as well as a series of writing assignments. Complementing the assignments is a mandatory Grammar and Style component.

Book of literary works from previous students

THE SCENE and the Unseen is the second annual anthology of literary non-fiction by the students of WRIT 290.

Students’ culminating assignment in WRIT 290 is to compose an original work of literary non-fiction on a subject of their choice. Students are first asked to write a short proposal and to sketch out a provisional outline. Then, they are asked to transform their outline into a working rough draft. The final stage of the project asks students to revise their rough draft into a polished, publication-ready final copy. At every step of the writing process, students receive advice and feedback from their instructor and teaching assistants. Students’ final drafts are then published here with minimal further editing. The works of literary non-fiction in this collection thus represent the product of several months’ work by a group of dedicated and assiduous students of writing.

Click here for the online version of this publication.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

In WRIT 290, students will

  • Learn about literary non-fiction as literary form;
  • Read works by recent writers working in variety of fields (travel writing, biography, personal essay, etc.)
  • Examine some stylistic and mechanical aspects of literary non-fiction writing;
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknessess of these writings
  • Explore some similarities and differences between literary and academic writing;\
  • Experiment with literary non-fiction modes of writing

Through these experiences, students will

  • Enhance their critical reading skills through readings and discussion of course texts;
  • Develop their writing skills by
    • Creating strong, organized and original works of literary non-fiction to a publishable standard
    • Particiapting in dialogue with markers, instructors, and other students on course readings and their own work, through feedback and forum discussions
  • Learn to critique and edit their won work as well as that of others
  • Gain appreciation of insight into the breadth and potential of literary non-fiction writing techniques, both as a reader and a writer
  • See their final work published in an e-book anthology at the end of the course


Unit 1Literary and Academic Writing
Unit 2Writing about Travel and Place
Unit 3Writing about People
Unit 4Writing about Culture
Unit 5The Personal Essay


Literary non-fiction is a broad term describing a range of writing genres, all of which have two simple things in common: they are written in prose (as opposed to poetry) and they deal with non-fictional subject matter (as opposed to novels or short stories). In a sense, literary non-fiction is the documentary film of the literary world, as with documentaries, literary non-fiction essays and books represent a vast range of styles and subject matter. WRIT 290 offers students an opportunity to study and write works of literary non-fiction. Through readings, exercises, forum discussions, and writing assignments, students will develop a greater sense of how literary non-fiction can work as a creative form of writing. The course will culminate in the publication of an e-book containing students' final literary non-fiction writing assignments, which will be distributed to students via Dr. May's class website.


Winter 2020
Course Dates: 
Jan 6 - Apr 3, 2020
Exam Dates: 




Professor Robert May (mayr@queensu.ca)

Time Commitment


Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

Computer Specifications

  • Windows 8.1 or newer
  • OSX 10.13 (High Sierra) or newer
  • Dual Core 2 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Soundcard
  • USB Headset
  • Webcam

Supported Browsers

  • Chrome (preferred - latest version)
  • Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ
  • Edge is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ

Internet Connection

  • Wired high speed access: Cable or better
  • Wifi is not recommended


  • Latest version

Media Player

  • Flash (latest version)

Adobe Reader

  • Latest Version


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

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Non-Queen’s Students

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Academic Integrity

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