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American Autobiography: Stories of the Self in Society
ENGL 119
Fall 2006
Section: 01  

From the journals of Christopher Columbus to the latest best-seller list, first-person narratives have been at the center of literature written in the Americas. This seminar asks why the form of autobiography has been so important to the literary history of the United States. Why do so many authors - from escaped slaves to chroniclers of the most priveleged members of society - choose to represent themselves, or a fictive self, in the first-person? What is it about the imagined "I" that so attracts readers? In broader terms, what does the prevelance of autobiography say about the culture - and the politics - of the United States at different moments in history? Perhaps because autobiography presents a form apparently available to everyone, it crosses many divisions of race, gender, and class. Our readings will provide a way into both these difficult issues and into a number of important aspects of American literature. Our non-fiction readings will include tales of captivity, slave narratives, and the autobiographies of two major African American writers (Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright). We will also study one first-person novel from each of four major literary periods: THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE from the American Renaissance, THE GREAT GATSBY from the Jazz Age, and INVISIBLE MAN from the post-war period. Our last two texts WOMAN WARRIOR, a work that combines memoir and fiction, and MAUS, an illustrated novel (i.e. comic book), will lead us into post-modern forms of autobiography that challenge previous conceptions of the genre and the relation of the private stories to public histories.

Essential Capabilities: None
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUN-20-2024
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