American Autobiography: Stories of the Self in Society|
Fall 2008 not offered
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 nonfiction 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 postwar 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 postmodern forms of autobiography that challenge previous conceptions of the genre and the relation of the private stories to public histories.
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Seminar||Grading Mode: Graded|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Mary Rowlandson, NARRATIVE OF CAPTIVITY & ESCAPE
Frederick Douglass, NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS
Nathaniel Hawthorne, THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE
F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY
Zora Neale Hurston, DUST TRACKS ON THE ROAD
Richard Wright, BLACK BOY/AMERICAN HUNGER
Ralph Ellison, INVISIBLE MAN
Maxine Hong Kingston, WOMAN WARRIOR
Art Speigelman, MAUS
|Examinations and Assignments: |
2 essays 3-4 p.p. in form of an autobiography and a framed fictional narrative.
2 analytical papers 3-4 p.p. one close-reading of language; one study of narrative form.
2 reading examinations at mid-term and at the close of the class.
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
As the writing assignments indicate, we will be practicing the art of autobiography (in fiction and non-fiction modes), as well as studying the texts for the class. Though no previous experience is necessary, interested students should be aware of this creative-writing component of the class.
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