Studies: Life Writing


The category of the human is complex and politically charged. Whether individuals or groups are accorded human status can determine whether they live or die. This course explores how individual life narratives situated in relation to collective traumas can expose exclusionary conceptualizations of the human and challenge—on ethical and legal grounds, as well as through appeals to affect—violence-inducing human/inhuman divides. The course begins with Holocaust narratives; moves to narratives about life in occupied Palestine; takes up accounts of Hurricane Katrina; considers life writing accounts (social media campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter as well as film) that contest police violence against African Americans; then concludes with life writing texts that oppose hate crimes against transgendered youth.


Texts (tentative listing) in addition to a Course Reader:

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz; Art Spiegelman, Maus; Atef abu Saif, The Drone Eats with Me; Norma Hashim, editor. Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak; Rachel Corrie, My Name Is Rachel Corrie; Dave Eggers, Zeitoun; Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (dirs), Trouble the Water; Ryan Coogler (dir), Fruitvale Station; Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; Claudia Rankine, Citizen; Patrisse Cullors, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir; Aknieszka Holland (dir.), A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story; Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, Kumu Hina.


A term paper of 10-12 pages (50%). A few short writing assignments and several quizzes (15%). A presentation + short essay (20%). Group journals (15%). Attendance is mandatory; missed classes will negatively impact your grade.