English R1B

Reading and Composition: Life Writing

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
18 Spring 2016 Bauer, Mark
TTh 3:30-5 225 Wheeler

Book List

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

Other Readings and Media

Elizabeth Bishop, Selected Prose and Poetry; Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (online); Florence Hardy, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy (online); Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (selections online); Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” (online)


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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