How much are we shaped by our historical times and places? How much power do we have to make our historical conditions respond to our needs and desires? These questions and others are at the foundation of our class, which includes both memoir writing and memoir reading. We will construct narratives about our times and selves in a series of writing workshops. There will be some exercises where you will be asked to research specific aspects of your times and places. For example, you might be asked to research and write about such questions as: when and where were you born, what were the major cultural or political currents of that time, and how was your early childhood influenced by them? Or you may be asked to bring in a photograph of someone important in your personal history and write about that person.
The memoir is a distinct genre, with topics/themes particular to it. Some of the most important are memory itself, childhood, place and displacement, language, loss/trauma/melancholia/nostalgia, self-invention or transformation, family and generational differences. The class will engage with these topics in the analysis of the readings and also in the writing of memoirs. Specific techniques will be highlighted for writing practice: the catalog, diction, dialogue, metaphor, description, point of view, and narrative structure, including temporal organization, the doubled narrative, and the narrative frame.