English R1B

Reading and Composition : Life Stories

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2014 Browning, Catherine Cronquist
MWF 1-2 79 Dwinelle

Book List

Gaskell: Life of Charlotte Brontë ; Gosse: Father and Son; Graff and Birkenstein: They Say/I Say ; Mill: Autobiography ; Thompson: Lark Rise to Candleford

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings on course website including selections from D. Wordsworth, Newman, Dickens, C. Brontë.


This course will examine how authors born in nineteenth-century Britain shaped lived experience into nonfictional narrative, turning their own lives and the lives of those around them into stories. We’ll consider autobiography, biography, memoir, and diaries, noting the ways in which literary technique translates “real life” to the page. Addressing the fraught relationship between life writing and the novel, we’ll ask how authors turn their biographical or autobiographical subject into a protagonist, what kinds of closure are available to the memoirist, and how time is distorted by life writing. We’ll also interrogate our own fascination with life writing, attempting to understand what aspects of biography and autobiography appeal to readers, and to find the line between healthy interest and unhealthy obsession.

As part of the university’s Reading and Composition requirement, this course develops reading, writing, and research skills that are applicable across the curriculum. We will focus on how to find, evaluate, and make effective use of research tools and resources for analytic writing. The primary writing assignments for the course will be three progressively longer papers (2-3 pages, 6-8 pages, 8-10 pages), combining analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources. Strategies for revision will form another major focus of the course, and the second and third papers will include substantial work (and feedback) at the prewriting and draft stages of composition.  

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