Life Writing

As the home to the Center for Biographical Research (est. 1988) and the internationally recognized journal Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (est. 1978), the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is a premier destination for the study of life writing.


At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Department of English offers a variety of courses focusing on the critical study and composition of life writing (see Creative Writing to learn more about classes in autobiographical writing, creative nonfiction, and memoir). As the field of life writing has expanded its reach far beyond the traditional genres of autobiography, biography, and memoir, our study and teaching of life writing has become necessarily interdisciplinary. The life writing coursework at UH Mānoa often incorporates a wide range of life narratives, including biopics, autobiographical documentaries, graphic life narratives, visual art, testimonio, social media, and autoethnographies. We approach life narratives from different critical vantage points, examining the intersection of human rights discourse and life writing, for example, or exploring how new media and the Internet are transforming life narratives. Most significantly, given that life writing concerns are inevitably shaped by the specific environments in which they are created, Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies are central to the way we engage with life writing texts in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.


Students at all levels have the opportunity to pursue critical or creative life writing projects under the supervision and mentorship of some of the world’s most renowned life writing scholars. Click here for a list of recent MA theses and PhD dissertations from UH Mānoa graduate students.


Beyond curriculum, the Center for Biographical Research also hosts the longest-running lecture series at UH Mānoa, the Brown Bag Biography talks, a weekly forum dedicated to life writing.


There are many ways to engage and work with life writing at UH Mānoa! For more information, check out the Center for Biographical Research’s website.