English 180A

Autobiography: Disability Memoir

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2018 Kleege, Georgina
TTh 12:30-2 Note new location starting Thurs., 2/1: 219 Dwinelle

Book List

Bauby, J-D.: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Connoly, K. : Double Take: A Memoir; Danquah, M. : Willow Weep for Me; Forney, E.: Marbles; Galloway, T.: Mean Little Deaf Queer; Keller, H.: The World I Live In; Kingsley & Levitz, J. &M. : Count Us In; Laborit, E. : The Cry of the Gull; Simon, R.: Riding the Bus with My Sister


This course will examine autobiography as a literary genre. We will survey the history of the genre and consider such questions as: How is reading autobiography like/unlike reading fiction? How do the truth claims made by autobiographies shape readers’ expectations? What are the forms and techniques autobiographers use to tell their stories?  The texts we are reading are all written by people with disabilities, so we will also discuss the impact that disability has on life-writing. Autobiographies written by people with disabilities offer readers a glimpse into lives at the margins of mainstream culture, and thus can make disability seem less alien and frightening. Disability rights activists, however, have criticized these texts because they tend to reinforce the notion that disability is a personal tragedy that must be overcome through superhuman effort, rather than a set of cultural conditions that could be changed to accommodate a wide range of individuals with similar impairments. Are these texts agents for social change or merely another form of freak show?

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