This first-year seminar offers students the chance to write serious historical biography. How does character-driven narrative nonfiction differ from traditional, i.e., explanatory, history-writing? Can narrative life stories advance an argument in the same way that more theoretical books do? How does the biographer conduct research and use his or her subject to make larger claims about that subject's time and place? In addition to reading a range of distinguished writers and conducting independent archival research, students will share their writing with one another in sessions designed to sharpen their skills as stylists, researchers, and narrators. Some writing exercises will be traditional, others more experimental. The seminar will have readings in common, with longer biographies assigned to and purchased only by individual students, who will present on their chosen biographies to the seminar. The final assignment - a 30-page biography of a grandparent - will be submitted in installments of three. There will be guest speakers and several films, too.