Autobiographical Writing

ENG 311 is offered this coming fall by the department’s newest faculty member in Creative Writing, Laurel Fantauzzo. She can be reached at lfantauzzo@gmail.com.  Please contact her at that address if you need to seek consent to take this course or if you have further questions about what is described below.

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

Thornton Wilder wrote this to the author John Knowles in 1945: “It is from our deepest subjectivity that we write.” Like a memorable autobiography, this quote carries many layers of truth. It is indeed important to write the objective details of our world. To write an autobiographical piece, we must begin to understand our own particular subjectivities, our own distinctive backgrounds, and our own unique points of view, in order to observe, and work within, the contexts we wish to explore.

Over the course of the semester, we will interpret the term “autobiography” broadly, in different forms, including text, graphic, oral history, film, and performance works. Ultimately, we will focus on the memoir essay and personal essay forms of autobiographical writing, but we will also absorb works across a variety of mediums and from a number of different countries, traditions, and eras. We will also explore the ethics of autobiographical writing through the works of theorists and practitioners.

COURSE LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Interpret autobiographical writing in a variety of media through close reading and viewing.

Engage the ideas and the writing of others in active, compassionate, critical ways.

Acknowledge which works resonate with you and / or challenge you the most, cultivating analytical reflection while acknowledging your individual feeling.

Track different modes of thought on autobiography by engaging a body of philosophies and practices.

Discover and articulate your own ethics and aesthetics within autobiographical writing.

 

ASSIGNMENTS AND REQUIREMENTS:

Weekly readings. Each student will be assigned to lead one discussion during one class over the course of the semester.

Two short pieces of textual writing exercises, approximately 700 words.

One longer autobiographical piece, revised twice, with a final to be turned in at the end of the semester. (Approximately 1500 words for text, eight to ten minutes for film or performance, ten pages for graphic memoir.)

Regular attendance and participation.

Quizzes as they may arise.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

For a small reading and writing course to be effective, all participants should commit to being present at each class meeting. Attendance is mandatory; please do not sign up for this course if you anticipate that attending will be a problem.

TEXTS:

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui

Our other readings will be compiled in a COURSE READER or made available as PDFs. We will also be viewing in-class, autobiographical films.