ENGL 200 B: Reading Literary Forms

Writing Lives: Women Warriors, Memoir, and Autofiction

Meeting Time: 
TTh 8:30am - 10:20am
Location: 
LOW 113
SLN: 
13913

Syllabus Description:

Writing Lives: Women Warriors, Memoir, & Autofiction

Course Overview:

How would you write your life story? Where would you begin? How would you paint the people in your life as characters? Would your tone be formal, personal, dramatic, sarcastic, comical? What events would you highlight? What would you choose to leave out? Consider the most emotionally heightened experiences—positive and negative—you’ve ever had. How might your friends or family write about those same events in different ways? Telling a story about actual lived experience demands a writer to make deliberate choices, and sacrifices, in each and every sentence. This course will explore these challenges in diverse texts by women writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Course texts focus especially on place, displacement, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and identity.

The dizzying list of critical terms falling under the umbrella concept of “life writing” goes on and on: autobiography, autofiction, memoir, literary biography, biographical fiction, autobiographical fiction, graphic memoir, autoethnography. What drives the desire to categorize and qualify such specific genres when it comes to writing about life experiences? Are these labels helpful or limiting? What does it mean to obsessively pursue truth, fact, and history in a document of subjective narrative? How do we understand the relationship between individual and cultural memory through these genres? In what ways do documentation and artistic expression converge in various forms of life writing? How do different forms—prose fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, spoken word, comics—allow authors to write their lives in different ways?

Readings will include works by Zitkala-Ša, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Michelle Cliff, Marjane Satrapi, Azar Nafisi, and selections from The Moth: True Stories Told Live podcast.

 

Bourbonnais - ENGL 200 B Wi15 - Syllabus.pdf

Weekly Blogging Prompt & Rubric.pdf

Additional Details:

How would you write your life story? Where would you begin? How would you paint the people in your life as characters? Would your tone be formal, personal, dramatic, sarcastic, comical? What events would you highlight? What would you choose to leave out? Consider the most emotionally heightened experiences—positive and negative—you’ve ever had. How might your friends or family write about those same events in different ways? Telling a story about actual lived experience demands a writer to make deliberate choices, and sacrifices, in each and every sentence. This course will explore these challenges in diverse texts by women writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Course texts focus especially on place, displacement, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and identity.

The dizzying list of critical terms falling under the umbrella concept of “life writing” goes on and on: autobiography, autofiction, memoir, literary biography, biographical fiction, autobiographical fiction, graphic memoir, autoethnography. What drives the desire to categorize and qualify such specific genres when it comes to writing about life experiences? Are these labels helpful or limiting? What does it mean to obsessively pursue truth, fact, and history in a document of subjective narrative? How do we understand the relationship between individual and cultural memory through these genres? In what ways do documentation and artistic expression converge in various forms of life writing? How do different forms—prose fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, spoken word, comics—allow authors to write their lives in different ways?

Readings will include works by Zitkala-Ša, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Michelle Cliff, Marjane Satrapi, Azar Nafisi, and selections from The Moth: True Stories Told Live podcast.

Course Objectives:
This course will develop students’ critical reading, thinking, and writing skills through class discussions; low-stakes writing in weekly blogging and in-class writing assignments; and formal writing in a creative multimodal project, and a final essay that will expand on and revise material generated in previous assignments. Students will also learn to articulate an understanding of their own reading and writing processes, and how these processes shape the original lines of inquiry students choose to explore in their essays.

Required Materials:
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976)
Michelle Cliff, Abeng (1984), and If I Could Write this in Fire (2008)
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2000)
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003)

Other materials will be made available electronically.

Assessment:
Participation 30%
Weekly Blogging 20%
Midterm Project 25%
Final Paper 25%

This course fulfills the University’s W (writing) requirement, as well as the VLPA (visual, literary, and performing arts) requirement.

Please note that this course requires a heavy reading load and meets at 8:30am. Participation in every single class period is crucial to your success in this course. If you fall behind in the reading, just come talk to me. Do not miss class. If you think making it to every session at 8:30am will be a problem for you, you may want to consider finding another course.

Catalog Description: 
Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
March 16, 2016 - 11:00am