“All sorrows can be borne,” writes Isak Dinesen, “if you put them in a story, or tell a story about them.” This program will approach autobiography (literally, ‘self-life-writing’) as a powerful way to make sense of human experience, particularly in times, places, and social, political, and personal settings that differ from our own. In seminars, students will delve into the intricate issues of memory, authority, persona, and truth that present themselves to every writer of self-narrative. In “writing marathons” they will learn to write freely and fearlessly about their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Our texts will range from classics in the genre like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, to contemporary works like Trevor Noah's Born a Crime and Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis. Students will develop and articulate their new understandings by means of response papers, reflective journals, bibliographic summaries, and related activities. Finally, students will write substantial memoir-essays of their own, developing their topics and drafts in a supportive group environment.
To participate successfully in this program, students will need a consistent high-speed internet connection and a reliable laptop computer or tablet. Expect 6 to 7 hours of Zoom contact time per week; we will also make use of Canvas in conducting the program. The faculty will offer alternative assignments, as appropriate, if conditions prevent students from attending some of our online meetings.
This program assumes a facility with standard written English and the ability to read material that is both intellectually and emotionally challenging.
Course Reference Numbers
Humanities, education, literature, writing.