Masterclass: The Personal and the Political

Masterclass: The Personal and the Political

The Personal and the Political
  • Photo of Rachel Hewitt
    Rachel Hewitt
Date Friday March 8th 2024, 11:00-13:00 GMT
Location Online

In November 2020, the creative writing tutor Jake Wolff posted a tweet satirising a certain style of non-fiction: “Creative nonfiction writers be like: I first ate a hotdog when I was six years old. I remember the taste, the scent, the summer. SECTION BREAK: Hot dogs were invented in 1693 by Steven Hotdog. According to Scientific American, the hotdog is…”

Wolff’s tweet pokes fun at clunky transitions between individual experience and historical context. In this masterclass, we will experiment with ways to knit the personal and the political in a more conscious and considered manner. The masterclass will be led by Rachel Hewitt, an award-winning historian and memoirist whose books interweave individual lives (her own and others’) with historical eras and political upheavals. Rachel will guide us through some of the complex, thought-provoking and fascinating issues at stake in marrying the personal and political in creative non-fiction. Why might an author want to do this, and what problems might you encounter on the way?

Can a life be a vista onto its context, or does the context flesh out a life – or both? When is it justified and beneficial, and when is it clunky and overreaching, to interpret individual experience in this way? Which details or moments in life might prove particularly fruitful as windows onto broader historical or political issues? Rachel will offer writing exercises, close readings and a discussion of research techniques, and you will leave the session energised about the potential for marrying the immediate intimacy of auto/biography with the important insights of social commentary in your work-in-progress.

The Masterclass will be delivered via Zoom webinar, so you can take the session at your own pace, without the pressure of having your video or camera on. Sessions are also recorded so if you are unable to attend live, you will have access to the recording for a month afterwards.

Online: £40

Concessions: £20

As part of our effort to increase participation in the arts, half-price concessions are available for this course at checkout. There are a limited number of free subsidised places for those who cannot afford the concession price.

We are committed to making our Arvon at Home programme accessible to as many people as possible.

Across all of Arvon at Home


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"These zoom opportunities are really helping to open my world and keep me inspired to write."
— Masterclass participant
"Arvon at Home creates a model to participate in inspirational tutoring for writers, at a distance. The feeling of attending to my writing life in an excellent fashion, and still having a half-day for my work and caring responsibilities at home, felt like a good balance."
— Masterclass participant
"It was an absolutely brilliant session and very very useful. And it made me realise how much I’ve missed this kind of workshop because of having children and family that I can’t leave. Now we’re all in the same boat the online stuff is truly transformative."
— Masterclass participant



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