English 180A

Autobiography: American Autobiography: Race, Gender, Culture

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2013 Padilla, Genaro M.
TTh 11-12:30 B5 Hearst Annex

Book List

Acosta, Oscar: Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo; Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; DuBois, W. E. B.: The Souls of Black Folk; Dumas, Firoozeh: Funny in Farsi; Franklin, Benjamin: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Kingston, Maxine Hong: The Woman Warrior; Momaday, N. Scott: The Way to Rainy Mountain; Thoreau, Henry David: Walden; Whitman, Walt: Song of Myself; Yetman, Norman: When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection


We will take a group of texts--conventional memoir, poetry, painting, photography, and I-focused new media--to explore what American auto/bio/graphy really means.  We will start in the 18th century with Benjamin Franklin and close with a group of late 20th-century narratives by writers such as Maxine Hong Kingston and Jimmy Santiago Baca, as well as artists like Jacob Lawrence, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Yolanda Lopez and Cindy Sherman.  In between, we'll study works by Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Mary Cassatt,and Mary Antin.

We will trace what these and other “autobiographers” have to say about being American, about their sense of identity in the U.S. at different historical moments, about racial and cultural relations, about gender expectations/performance,  and about the formation of an individual identity within/against the social structures that often determine the contours of identity formation.

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