Erika Hayasaki is an associate professor in the Literary Journalism Program at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches writing workshops on narratives off the news, science and medical writing, and digital narrative journalism, among other classes for undergraduates. (see course descriptions below). Here is a recent article on the program and its history.
Description of the undergraduate major from UCI Literary Journalism Program web site:
Offered by the Department of English, Literary Journalism was created to meet the needs of a growing number of students who wish to read, study and write nonfiction prose that has transcended the limits of daily journalism. This is prose that has evolved into a distinct branch of literature, prose that adopts the aims and techniques of the finest fiction. The program provides majors with a solid foundation in nonfiction writing and an equally solid background in areas such as literary history, which together will help make them more informed writers.
Literary journalism is an emerging field of study that is known by varying names, including creative nonfiction, the literature of fact and literary nonfiction. There are anthologies devoted to it, and many colleges offer courses in it or feature it as an option within their majors. UCI's program builds on existing departmental strengths: its nationally ranked programs in creative writing, literature and literary theory. Literary Journalism majors take three intensive writing seminars, and are expected to develop a portfolio of work by graduation which they can present as evidence of their skill for purposes of employment or future education. At the same time, majors are asked to take a comprehensive look at the theory, history and context of literary journalism. Among other forms, they study and write narratives, memoirs, profiles, histories and personal essays, in subject areas as varied as science, politics, justice, travel, sports, food and popular culture. They use as models a multitude of writers, ranging from Daniel Defoe, James Boswell and Stephen Crane to George Orwell, John Hersey, Lillian Ross, Joseph Mitchell, Gay Talese, John McPhee, Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Tracy Kidder, Calvin Trillin, Hunter Thompson, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer.
While it differs from an applied journalism major that focuses primarily on newspaper writing, the major in Literary Journalism is excellent preparation for students planning to enter graduate programs in journalism, as well as for those interested in the many careers requiring sophisticated writing skills.
See UCI Literary Journalism faculty here.
SoHayasaki's specific courses offered:
LIT JRN (F17) 103 MEDICAL NARRATIVES HAYASAKI, E.
In this class, we will read deeply reported and researched medical narratives written by journalists about science, psychology and healthcare. Although these nonfiction pieces will at times draw from scientific and medical studies, at their heart they will be stories about people: patients, families, nurses, physicians, scientists, mental health workers, and sometimes also the journalists behind these stories. We will discuss how writers untangle complex and sensitive subjects: mysteries of the mind, death and dying, diseases, disorders and surgical procedures--to present them in compelling ways. How does a journalist report for details that evoke empathy? How does a medical question become a true mystery? A tragedy? A hero's journey? How do writers preserve the narrative voice when translating medical terminology? When do they rely on the first-person or essayist's voice? How do some journalists reconstruct or become fly-on-the-wall reporters inside of hospitals and healthcare facilities? What ethical complications arise when writing about the ill, the dying, and the hospitalized? In this class, we will read works by Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, Leslie Jamison, Jean Marie Laskas, Anne Fadiman, and Sheri Fink, among others. We will also incorporate medical narratives from podcasts and radio narrative programs like
Radiolab, This American Life and Invisibilia.
LIT JRN (W16) 101BW NARRATIVES OF SCIENCE AND THE MIND HAYASAKI, E.
In narrative journalism, we often emphasize getting to the emotional core of the people we write about. But what about writing narratives that try to unravel the mysteries of emotions themselves? In this class, we will read about the science of behavior and the mind. We will consider stories about neurological disorders like schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s, and perhaps some that you have never heard of like mass psychogenic illness (which led to a ticking outbreak among cheerleaders), or Morgellons Disease (which can be blamed for extreme itching), or body integrity disorder (in which a person might become obsessed with cutting off his arm). We will explore questions like what drives human behavior? Can emotions like shame or empathy be pinpointed to a particular part of the brain? What if memories can be planted? Or what if a sociopath is just born like that? How do these questions complicate the law? Such scientific discoveries could change the way journalists write crime narratives like In Cold Blood, particularly when we get into questions like: Does the brain dictate behavior? Is it our genes? Or can morality still be boiled down to the choices we make? Although we will be asking big universal questions that will help drive our narratives, we will still seek stories that address these topics through literary journalism, with characters, scenes and tension. Who are the people behind these disorders and discoveries—the scientists, patients, families, or defendants? Each student will be responsible for writing and reporting a science-inspired narrative as a final paper.
LIT JRN (F15) 103 NARRATIVES IN THE DIGITAL AGE HAYASAKI, E.
Who says long-form journalism is dying? It is evolving. In this class, we will explore and debate the future of books, magazines, newspapers, writers, and publishers in a digital age. Students will read first-rate pieces from journalists who have published digitally or are incorporating new media, videos, blogs, e-readers and podcasts into reading experiences. This class will be heavily focused on reading and discussions, and students will be expected to think about how traditional storytelling might change as reading formats evolve. We will discuss questions like: Will the book go the way of the CD or record? Will articles soon solely be distributed through models akin to the I-Tunes of Literature? Is that a financially viable model? Is there a bad guy in the war between Amazon and Barnes & Noble? How can the quality and integrity of such writing continue to be preserved as it is produced, sold, and read? Students will not only dissect digital stories for each class, analyzing them for narrative arc, scenes, voice, characters, theme, and reporting, but they will also be expected to come up with their own proposals on how to make reading experiences stronger and more successful in this digital age.
LIT JRN (S15) 101BW WRTNG OFF THE NEWS HAYASAKI, E.
A man jumps from a Manhattan skyscraper and nosedives to his death, a fire ravages a college dorm in the middle of the night, a little girl is murdered by an internet predator, a band of terrorists take an elementary school full of children hostage. For each event, headlines around the world captured the breaking news. But the stories were not over. Weeks after the stories broke, the most compelling details had yet to be reported. Some of the best literary journalists find gripping stories by going back to the scene and interviewing sources weeks, months or even years after the news broke. In this class we will learn to search newspapers and blogs for story ideas that the daily media may have missed and we will learn to go back after a story has become "old news," after the daily reporters have left. We will study how literary journalists reconstruct events after they have occurred, and we will read writers and reporters who found unique angles on widely reported events. We will also learn to pay attention to news nuggets that are often ignored or quickly dismissed. Students will learn to find story ideas in news briefs, blurbs or items that received only a passing mention on the evening news, keeping in mind that these can often lead to the most riveting profiles and narratives. In this class, students will be expected to work on their narrative writing skills and interviewing techniques, and they will be required to find, pitch, report, and write their own stories off the news.
Note: Program requirements may change from year to year. Please check the UCI Catalogue for the most current requirements.