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Undergraduate English Courses

358:250 Introduction to Autobiography

01  MW6  CAC  18349  ELLIS  SC-204

Memoir as a New Genre

In A Room of One's Own Virginia Woolf speculated that "the impulse toward autobiography may be spent."  Walking into a bookstore today we can see that Woolf was clearly wrong, but the question is, why this new genre now? Some comparison with the "rise of the novel" will serve as a jumping off point for an examination of first person writing by both men and women in a historical context.  The memoir differs from autobiographical writing in that it uses the skills of fiction writing to bring to life a significant issue with which the writer has struggled and from which he or she has gained a wider understanding of the issue that is passed on to the reader.  It is thus a form of creative writing.  We will begin with narratives about growing up in America, then move out into the wider world to read narratives of writers who grew up in other countries. 

One autobiographical paper, one analytical paper and brief written responses to each of the readings.