Faculty Course Description
ENG426WI: Studies in Genre Representing Selfhood in Autobiography
Dr. James Watkins
Office: Evans 217
Office phone: 233-4072
This course will be taught as a seminar and will trace the development of autobiographical writing (which I define broadly to include memoir and other forms of personal narrative) from St. Augustine to the present, with an emphasis on self-representational practices in the twentieth-century U.S. Our readings will raise a number of theoretical issues that we will attempt to wrestle with throughout the term. For instance, what is an autobiography? How has the rise of autobiography as a discursive practice not simply paralleled but participated in the development of modern selfhood? In what ways have conventional models of autobiography excluded or de-emphasized ways that women and people of color have typically represented their experiences of selfhood? How has autobiography been used as a means of challenging social and political injustice? How do our own processes of self-definition reflect the influence of autobiographical practice? What are some non-discursive ways of representing selfhood today and how are they similar to and different from conventional forms of autobiography?
We will use a variety of assignments to encourage critical engagement with the assigned texts, stimulate class discussion, and prompt self-reflection.
five informal reaction papers 15%
mid-term essay 20%
final essay 25%
final exam 20%
Short selections from Augustine, Edwards, Rousseau, Franklin, and others.
Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass/Incidents in
the Life of a Slave Girl (dual edition)
John Niehardt, Black Elk Speaks
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Childhood Among Ghosts
Art Spiegelman, Maus I and II: A Survivor=s Tale
Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
selected critical essays, available on reserve at Memorial Library.