Fourth Genre, The: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction

Robert L. Root / Michael J. Steinberg  
Total pages
June 2011
Related Titles

Product detail

Product Price CHF Available  
Fourth Genre, The: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction
138.00 not defined

Free evaluation copy for lecturers


This best-selling anthology is a comprehensive and indispensable introduction to the way creative nonfiction is written today.


The Fourth Genre offers the most comprehensive, teachable, and current introduction available today to the cutting-edge, evolving genre of creative nonfiction.  While acknowledging the literary impulse of nonfiction to be a fourth genre equivalent to poetry, fiction, and drama, this text focuses on subgenres of the nonfiction form, including memoir, nature writing, personal essays, literary journalism, cultural criticism, and travel writing.


This anthology was the first to draw on the common ground of the practicing writer and the practical scholar and to make the pedagogical connections between creative writing practice and composition theory, bridging some of the gaps between the teaching of composition, creative writing, and literature in English departments.


  • Over seventy readings represent the full range of creative nonfiction subgenres--personal narrative, essay, memoir, literary journalism, and personal cultural criticism–and showcase a full range of writerly techniques, such as linear and nonlinear presentation, associative strategies, collage, mosaic, montage, jump cuts, braiding, segmenting, and non-sequential connections.
  • Authors anthologized in Part 1 include an impressive array of emerging writers such as Jo Ann Beard, Jonathan Lethem, and Meghan Daumas well as more prominent writers such as Mary Clearman Blew, Annie Dillard, Vivian Gornick, Patricia Hampl, Pico Iyer, Tracey Kidder, Phillip Lopate, Bret Lott, John McPhee, and Scott Russell Sanders.
  • Part 2 features essays that explicitly address genre issues, nonfiction forms, and writing strategies; these are mostly written by authors whose work appears in Part 1.  Students witness an inside view of writers' creative processes and, at the same time, participate in the academic study of nonfiction as a literary genre.
  • Unique Part 3 pairs works of creative nonfiction with companion pieces in which their authors explain the processes, methods, and strategies they used to write and revise the paired works.
  • Two alternative tables of contents organize the readings by sub genres and thematic approaches to writing.

New to this Edition


  • Twenty-four new readings introduce new forms such as the visual essay, video essay, graphic memoir, digital essay, and blog, expanding the range of contemporary genres offered in the text.
  • The revised introduction overviews changes in the genre, including its adaptation of new media, to contextualize new readings in the anthology.
  • New selections in Part 3 pair texts by emerging writers with the writers’ commentary on the works, highlighting contemporary composing processes.
  • New topics include the Gulf oil spill, the “slow book” movement, the Virginia Tech shooting, role-playing games, and more, ensuring the content is as fresh and engaging as the forms.


Table of Contents

Alternative Table of Contents: Forms and Processes of Creative Nonfiction 


Preface: Beginning the Conversation                                                                                               


Introduction: Creative Nonfiction, The Fourth Genre


Part 1. Writing Creative Nonfiction


Jo Ann Beard, “Out There”         

*Eula Biss and John Bresland, “Ode to Everything”            

Robin Black, “The Answer That Increasingly Appeals”      

*Michelle Bliss, “Fiction” 

Lisa Groen Braner, “Soundtrack”

*John Bresland, “Les Cruel Shoes”           

Shari Caudron, “Befriending Barbie”        

Steven Church, “I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part”    

Judith Ortiz Cofer, “Silent Dancing”         

*Edwidge Danticat, “A Little While”          

Meghan Daum, “On the Fringes of the Physical World”     

Matt Farwell, “Welcome to Afghanistan”              

*David Gessner, “Into the Gulf: A Journal–Day 10: Beyond the Oiled Pelican”         

Dagoberto Gilb, “Northeast Direct”                      

Vivian Gornick, “On the Bus”                  

Patricia Hampl, “Red Sky at Morning”                 

Jennifer Kahn, “Stripped for Parts”          

Jonathan Lethem, “13,1977, 21”             

Phillip Lopate, “Portrait of My Body”        

Nancy Lord, “I Met a Man Who Has Seen the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

and This Is What He Told Me”    

Debra Marquart, “Some Things About That Day”  

*Maggie McKnight, “Mother’s Day”           

John McPhee, “The Search for Marvin Gardens”   

*Ander Monson, “Geas”  

Tom Montgomery-Fate, “In Plain Sight”   

Michele Morano, “Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood”        

*Lia Purpura, “Glaciology”           

Chet Raymo, “Celebrating Creation”        

Robert L. Root, Jr., “Knowing Where You’ve Been”           

*Shelley Salamensky, “Postcards from Birobidzhan”         

Scott Russell Sanders, “Cloud Crossing”

Mimi Schwartz, “My Father Always Said”

*Tracy Seeley, “An E-Book is Not a Book, In Which I Launch the Slow Book Movement”      

*Sherry Simpson, “Natural History, or What Happens When We’re Not Looking”      

Michael Steinberg, “Chin Music”

*Joni Tevis, “Everything But Your Wits”     

*Judith Thurman, “Spreading the Word”                

Kate Torgovnick, “How I Became a Bed-Maker”    

*Kathryn Winograd, “Bathing”


Part 2. Talking About Creative Nonfiction


Jocelyn Bartkevicius, “The Landscape of Nonfiction”         

Mary Clearman Blew, “The Art of Memoir”           

*John Bresland, “On the Origins of the Video Essay”         

*Roger Ebert, “I Think I’m Musing My Mind”          

Vivian Gornick, “A Narrator Leaps Past Journalism”          

Patricia Hampl, “Memory and Imagination”          

Steven Harvey, “The Art of Self”  

Sonya Huber, “How Do I Write”   

Tracy Kidder, “Courting the Approval of the Dead”             

Judith Kitchen, “Mending Wall”   

*Carl H. Klaus, “Days into Essays: A Self for All Seasons”

Brenda Miller, “ ‘Brenda Miller Has a Cold,’ or, How the Lyric Essay Happens”       

*Laura Miller, “How to Live: Grandfather of the Writing We Love to Hate”      

Robert L. Root, Jr., “Collage, Montage, Mosaic, Vignette, Episode, Segment”        

Peggy Shumaker, “Prose Poems, Paragraphs, Brief Lyric Nonfiction”        

Michael Steinberg, “Finding the Inner Story in Memoirs and Personal Essays”       

Marianna Torgovnick, “Experimental Critical Writing”        

*Kathryn Winograd, “(Note to Self): The Lyric Essay”         


Part 3. Composing Creative Nonfiction


*Abigail Moore Allerding, “Home” 

*Abigail Moore Allerding, “Unwrapping Surprise in the Personal Essay”       

Emily Chase, “Warping Time with Montaigne”      

Emily Chase, “Notes from a Journey toward ‘Warping Time’”         

*Valerie Due, “Lambing Midwife”  

*Valerie Due, “Gestating Memory: Capturing Narrative Details in ‘Lambing Midwife’”

Mary Elizabeth Pope, “Teacher Training”

Mary Elizabeth Pope, “Composing ‘Teacher Training’”      

Maureen Stanton, “Zion”            

Maureen Stanton, “On Writing ‘Zion’”      


Notes on Authors          




*New to this edition

Instructor Resources