Graduate Catalog

Documentary Studies

Documentary Studies at the Northwest Writing Institute creates a community of seekers who shape untold stories, celebrate local heroes, and connect new technologies with the oldest human magic in storytelling. We offer individual courses open to Lewis & Clark graduate students (teachers or counselors who want to make these electives part of their degrees), as well as participants from the community (an artist, parent, veteran, neighborhood activist, or other citizen with a story to tell). The program sends participants as writers and documentarians into local communities and other landscapes of custom and culture. We teach the documentary arts of writing, video and film, audio recording, and digital storytelling. Our workshops bring together ethnography and creative expression, encouraging work that crosses cultural boundaries in search of stories that reveal, connect, and heal communities. Documentary methods will help individuals and communities engage issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and social justice.

Certificate in Documentary Studies

The Certificate in Documentary Studies program includes required courses that introduce students to documentary studies; discuss fieldwork, ethical issues, and interviewing techniques; and focus on writing as an important documentary medium. Students complete elective credits to deepen their engagement with documentary media including audio, film, digital media, and writing. All students complete a final capstone project. Partial scholarships may be available.

Certificate Requirements

A minimum of 8 semester hours, distributed as follows:

Required Courses
WCM 501/​WCM 601Introduction to Documentary Studies1
WCM 522/​WCM 622/​LA 522/​LA 690Imaginative Writing Seminar: Works in Progress1
WCM 545/​WCM 645/​LA 545/​CPSY 589Exploring Life Stories: The Art of the Interview1
WCM 530/​WCM 630/​LA 538Daily Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford1
or WCM 504/​WCM 604 Bearing Witness: Writing, Documentary Studies, Social Justice
Elective Courses

Any remaining required semester hours should be chosen from the following elective options:

WCM 504/​WCM 604Bearing Witness: Writing, Documentary Studies, Social Justice1
WCM 510/​WCM 610/​LA 510Memoir1-2
WCM 511/​WCM 611/​LA 511/​LA 611Audio Postcards: Creativity, Compassion, Commitment1
WCM 516/​WCM 616/​LA 516/​LA 616Telling Lives1
WCM 520/​WCM 620/​LA 521/​LA 621Telling Your Story in Documentary Film1-1.5
WCM 530/​WCM 630/​LA 538Daily Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford1-2
WCM 531/​WCM 631/​LA 536Digital Storytelling1-2
WCM 532/​WCM 632Writing Culture1-2
WCM 548/​WCM 648/​LA 518Healing Power of Story1

Courses

Note: The course numbers given below are for on-campus courses. All courses have off-campus equivalents with a 600-level version of the course number and many of these courses are cross-listed (to see all cross-listings, please see the table at the bottom of this page). 

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WCM 501 Introduction to Documentary Studies

Content: Documentary studies uses interdisciplinary frameworks and multiple modes of storytelling to explore individual lives and diverse cultures in the past and present. Students will examine the history and use of documentary work in the U.S., the ethics of fieldwork, and ways to convey the lives of others. Through analysis of film, photography, audio, and print journalism, participants will look at how documentary storytelling promotes human dignity and social justice and engages communities through collaborative projects. Students will create a proposal for a project documenting their families, students, clients, and/or members of another culture.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1 semester hour.

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WCM 504 Bearing Witness: Writing, Documentary Studies, Social Justice

Content: What is the writer's, teacher's, citizen's, or counselor's role in bearing witness? How do we observe, record, and interpret events from the everyday to the unspeakable? In this nonfiction workshop, we'll explore a continuum of creative nonfiction including literary journalism, essay, and memoir. We'll write from our own observations of cultural life, exploring ethical issues as well as style, voice, and literary form.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1 semester hour.

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WCM 510 Memoir

Content: Writing chapters from one's life story can produce gifts for family, and an important record of community life. In this workshop, we will read short passages from a variety of voices reflecting on lessons learned from life encounters and from interviews we conduct. We will use these passages as prompts for our own writing, leading to a gathering of short life chapters for further reflection and revision over time. No experience necessary, but a willing heart.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 511 Audio Postcards: Creativity, Compassion, Commitment

Content: Drawing on life experience, participants in this workshop will write profiles of personal heroes, encounters with other cultures, moments of creative discovery, and other compact experiences with indelible effects. From these short writings, we will select, deepen, and record our accounts for podcast, and other forms of web-based sharing.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1 semester hour.

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WCM 516 Telling Lives

Content: Which stories are ours to tell and which carry us into the terrain of others' lives? Our own stories often intersect with those entrusted to us by family, friends, and strangers; all are shaped by the cultures we inhabit. In this workshop, we'll explore biography, ethnography, journalistic portraits, and documentary writing. Our texts will include our own writing as well as works by various writers and practitioners in documentary inquiry.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1 semester hour.

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WCM 520 Telling Your Story in Documentary Film

Content: Learn the basics of film production and create an original 5-10 minute documentary in this hands-on workshop. Under the guidance of award-winning filmmakers, students will team up to outline, shoot, and edit their own documentary shorts. This collaborative workshop is intended for first-time and intermediate filmmakers, and includes classes on story structure and production. Final projects will be screened at the Homegrown DocFest at the end of the term.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-1.5 semester hours.

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WCM 522 Imaginative Writing Seminar: Works in Progress

Content: Open to graduate students and to writers, filmmakers, digital storytellers, and creators in other media, this seminar is a collaborative studio for completing creative work, which also serves as the capstone course for the Certificate in Documentary Studies. The seminar directs the energies of the seminar community in the development of individual works in progress, with reference to the best in contemporary writing and documentary expressions in other media.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 530 Daily Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford

Content: You don't eat just once every few days. You don't speak just every week or so. Learning is continuous, and hunger is closer to breathing than to an annual rite. So why not write daily? In this workshop, we will feed on examples from the daily writing of William Stafford, and practice in the spirit of his work. The emphasis will be on the process of creation: creating texts the length of poems but for use in multiple genres. The goal will be to know what it feels like--in the body and in acts of sustaining witness--to practice the continuous writing life you have imagined.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 531 Digital Storytelling

Content: How can teachers, counselors, and others tell stories from their work by combining word, image, and tune? This workshop is a studio experience to assist participants in designing and producing a three- to five-minute digital story that joins narrative, images, and music. Participants craft and record first-person narratives; collect still images, video, and music to deepen the narrative; and follow a process through peer response and instructor support to edit their stories.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 532 Writing Culture

Content: What shapes our identities as members of a family, workplace, religious group, or nation? How do we learn the rules for how to act in unfamiliar cultures, and how do we write about that experience? In this workshop, we'll write to discover the unique patterns of our own cultural worlds as well as those we've entered through literature, travel, and everyday experience. We'll read contemporary nonfiction to explore different cultural perspectives and we'll examine issues of craft, including character development, voice, and literary form. The workshop may also involve fieldwork and documentation of Portland life.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 545 Exploring Life Stories: The Art of the Interview

Content: Writers, oral historians, ethnographers, teachers, counselors, and families recording their stories all rely on interviews. In this workshop, we'll learn the interviewer's skills: how to listen and observe, frame questions, index and transcribe. We'll write together to bring the interviews to life on the page. We'll examine individual and social memory as well as ethical and political issues. We'll also explore the use of interviews in community projects and as the foundation of documentary studies.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1-2 semester hours.

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WCM 548 Healing Power of Story

Content: The hardest times in life can make you "voiceless," but also offer the greatest opportunity for stories. At these times the invitation to tell someone your story can be a critical encouragement in the healing process. As caregivers, teachers, counselors, parents, nurses, doctors, and patients, we will look at our own stories and those of others to practice strength and healing. Through writing, we will explore the uses of journals, fiction, essays, and poetry in the telling and receiving of stories.
Prerequisites: None.
Credits: 1 semester hour.

 

Cross-listings for WCM Courses

Students may register for the courses above under different numbers, according to what works best for their program. A current list of cross-listing is below. Please note that 500-level courses are held on campus, and 600-level courses are held off campus.

WCM 501/​WCM 601Introduction to Documentary Studies1
WCM 502/​WCM 602Poetry1-2
WCM 504/​WCM 604/​LA 504/​LA 604Bearing Witness: Writing, Documentary Studies, Social Justice1
WCM 506/​WCM 606Stafford Studies2
WCM 507/​WCM 607/​LA 507/​LA 607Essay1-2
WCM 508/​WCM 608Explorations in Graduate Writing1
WCM 509/​WCM 609Revision1-2
WCM 510/​WCM 610/​LA 510/​LA 630Memoir1-2
WCM 511/​WCM 611/​LA 511/​LA 611Audio Postcards: Creativity, Compassion, Commitment1
WCM 512/​WCM 612/​LA 512/​LA 612The Gift1
WCM 513/​WCM 613/​LA 533Field Notes: Observation and Reflection in the Natural World1
WCM 514/​WCM 614/​LA 514Writers in Danger2
WCM 515/​WCM 615The Practice of Writing1-2
WCM 516/​WCM 616/​LA 516/​LA 616Telling Lives1
WCM 518/​WCM 618Storymaking I/II2
WCM 519/​WCM 619Writing for Radio1-2
WCM 520/​WCM 620/​LA 521/​LA 621Telling Your Story in Documentary Film1-1.5
WCM 522/​WCM 622/​LA 522/​LA 690Imaginative Writing Seminar: Works in Progress1-2
WCM 527/​WCM 627/​LA 527/​LA 627Fiction1-2
WCM 530/​WCM 630/​LA 538Daily Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford1-2
WCM 531/​WCM 631/​LA 536Digital Storytelling1-2
WCM 532/​WCM 632Writing Culture1-2
WCM 533/​WCM 633Speaking: Voice, Place, Kinship1
WCM 535/​WCM 636Cultural Journalism1-2
WCM 536/​WCM 636Visual Thinking1
WCM 540/​WCM 640Writing for ESL Students1
WCM 545/​WCM 645/​LA 545/​LA 646Exploring Life Stories: The Art of the Interview1-2
WCM 546/​WCM 646/​LA 526Reading Other Voices1
WCM 548/​WCM 648/​LA 518Healing Power of Story1
WCM 574/​LA 574/​ED 574Personal Voice in Professional Writing1
WCM 576/​WCM 676/​LA 576/​LA 676/​ED 576/​ED 676/​SS 576/​SS 676Special Studies: Northwest Writing Institute1-2