Mares - Fletcher 313
Office Hours: TR 3-4 & by appt.
A study of selected autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries. Issues to be explored include the varied uses and purposes of autobiographical writings, their capacity to illuminate lived experience and social realities, their literary potential as art forms, the instability of autobiography as a genre, changing theories of the self, memory, and history as reflected in the readings, and recent debates about differences between the traditions of male and female autobiography in the West and the implications of these differences. Since this is a writing intensive course, a primary concern will be what we can learn about writing from these authors. Discussions will focus on this question throughout the term, as will various writing projects.
Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary and "A Sketch of the Past"
Doris Lessing, Under My Skin
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments
Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude
Adrienne Rich, "Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity"
Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera
Richard Rodriguez, "India" - from Days of Obligation
Toi Derricotte, The Black Notebooks
John Edgar Wideman,"Our Time" from Brothers and Keepers
Sidonie Smith & Julia Watson, Women, Autobiography, Theory (selections)
[SOME OTHER POSSIBILITIES:
V.S. Naipaul, "The Journey" - from The Enigma of Arrival
Luis Rodriguez, from Always Running: La Vida Loca
Samuel Delany, from The Motion of Light on Water
Wallace Stegner, from Wolf Willow
Harry Crews, from Childhood: A Biography of a Place
Eudora Welty, "The Little Store"
Oliver Sacks, "Brilliant Light: A Chemical Boyhood"]
(A xerox packet will be available by the second week of classes. The xeroxing fee needs to be paid in the Printing Office by that time.)
Regular attendance, careful preparation for class, and active participation in discussions; three papers, four to five pages in length (all may be critical essays, though I would hope that one or two would be autobiographical experiments; since this is a writing intensive course, some required revisions are likely); possibly, some brief, informal writing assignments for the purpose of class discussion (for example, written responses to questions on the readings or a short in-class essay); a special project (details below); a final presentation based on your special project
Special projects may consist of an extensive revision and expansion of one of your three papers for the course, or they may be an entirely separate project. Projects may focus on your own autobiographical experiments, as long as you also connect them to the works for the course. Projects may explore connections between works we read or may involve a more in-depth reading of a single author, perhaps drawing upon some of his or her work in other genres or upon biographies or critical studies of the author. Projects involving autobiographical films (for example, An Angel at My Table, based on Janet Frame's autobiography, or This Boy's Life, based on Tobias Wolf's) or involving a painter's or photographer's series of self-portraits (for example, Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman) are also possibilities. These are only suggestions; they are not meant to limit your imaginations.
In lieu of a final examination, you will be giving a presentation to the class, based on your special project, during final exam week. Details about the format for these presentations will be provided later on in the term.
Approximate breakdown of final grade: 25% for class participation (attendance, contributions to discussions, informal writing assignments); 45% for the papers (and any required revisions); 30% for the special project and final presentation.
Deadlines will be extended and absences excused only in the case of an urgent personal problem, a family emergency, or a serious illness, verifiable by the Dean. Absences from class will limit what you will gain from the course and what you can contribute to it. Unexcused absences also will lower your final grade for the course.
Late work for which no extension has been granted will receive an "F." Exceptions will be made only if I believe that they are fully warranted by the circumstances. Work that is not submitted receives a "O." All work must be submitted by the last day of class.
For your own protection, always make a copy of your work before submitting it.