English R1B

Reading and Composition: Writing from Life

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2011 Weiner, Joshua J
Weiner, Joshua
TTh 3:30-5 225 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Sterne, Tristram Shandy; Nietzsche, Ecce Homo; Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks; Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night.


This course seeks to approach, in a loosely historical fashion, some of the problems associated with the literary recording of lives. During the first segment of the class, we will develop a broad perspective on the emergence of autobiography as a practice and genre from late-17th-century poems on the poet’s calling and spiritual autobiography, through a selection from Rousseau’s Confessions, to the Romantic crisis of this mode in Wordsworth’s Prelude, complemented by a brief theoretical reading by Foucault. For the middle portion of the class, we will move away from autobiography as a genre to consider the problems of narrating a life explored in the great experimental novel of the 18th century, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. The final portion of the class, opening with Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, will look at 20th-century texts concerned with how life-writing can operate as the narration of lives  in the plural, specifically collectivities formed around different modes of alienation. Our touchstones here will be selections from Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks, and Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night. We will also consider two films. Our writing assignments will seek to include a significant focus on interacting with secondary criticism and using theoretical materials in shaping your argument. 

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