English R1B

Reading & Composition: Life Writing

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Fall 2015 Bauer, Mark
MWF 12-1 262 Dwinelle

Book List

The MLA Handbook; Johnson, James Weldon: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Lowell, Robert: Life Studies; Satrapi, Marjane: The Complete Persepolis; Wordsworth, William: The Prelude

Other Readings and Media

Also (available on-line): Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and Florence Hardy's The Early Life of Thomas Hardy.

Course reader, including Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, poems and stories by Elizabeth Bishop, and introductory material on autobiography.


Life writing seems self-explanatory as writing that is about one's life, but what does that mean, exactly? How does a life become literature, and why should literature, the province of the imagination, be made to present a real life? This course examines the rewards and difficulties that follow from life writing's proposition to connect the biographical self of the author with the self of the text. We will begin with a brief examination of autobiography as a genre before turning our attention to literary works in genres that are not necessarily autobiographical, but which authors have adapted to tell the story of an autobiographical self. Among other questions, we will be asking how each work creates its identification between the author's "I" and the text's "I," as well as what the work gains, loses, or calls into question through that identification. In addition to the readings, the course will also sharpen students' written argumentative and research skills; you will write and revise several essays, culminating in an eight- to ten-page research paper.

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