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Autobiography and Memoir: Making Meaning

Winter 2020
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 25
4 Credits per quarter
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We sift through our lives to mine and share powerful stories. Students will explore how to excavate, shape, and craft stories of self that bring about individual and community turning points. Each class will have writing exercises or workshops to engage us in memoir or autobiographical writing. These may be stories, essays, poems, or even podcast narratives. Writers can create paths for readers and listeners to experience self-understanding, insight, and the seeds for understanding complex subjects. Powerfully shared individual stories can propel change.

We’ll read Jose Antonia Vargas’s Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Worker and Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, as well as short memoirs that pull extraordinary stories from so-called ordinary lives. To help visualize and craft sharp narratives, we will watch films such as “Wild,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail . Writing and critique groups, seminars, and interactive lectures will help us to unpack Judith Barrington’s Writing the Memoir: The Truth from A to Z.

Students will create two short, well-supported projects over the quarter, as we practice the work and magic of constructing memoir and autobiographical writing. We will deepen revision skills. Students will receive significant feedback from faculty and peers. This course will generate discussion, understanding and practice of how to use our stories personally, creatively, academically, and professionally. For students wishing to take more credit, this Monday night course is designed to complement schedules and disciplines in several other courses and programs.


Winter 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

(4): 20112

Academic details

Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies and careers in

Communications, Writing, Advocacy, Public Policy, and Community Studies

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 E3109 - Seminar


Date Revision
2019-12-02 Title Updated (was Making Meaning: Autobiography and Memoir)
2019-12-02 Description updated