This course will demand a lot of reading and writing. We will experiment
with different ways of writing autobiography by using the course readings as
models, and we simultaneously will explore issues, problems, and questions that
these readings raise about writing autobiography.  I’ve based the readings for this course—and
the kinds of writing you can do for it—on a broadly defined understanding of
autobiography.  I hope that the wide
range of reading and writing will invite discussions about how to define autobiography,
and what’s at stake in struggles over definition.  Our readings will include not only more
traditionally literary forms of autobiography, but also a sampling of texts
often labeled as ethnography, political propaganda, sociology, or popular culture—our
readings will include, for example, testimonio, political essays, celebrity
autobiographies, cancer journals, and also autobiographical narratives that
defy disciplinary and genre boundaries as they make use of cookbook recipes,
dreams, letters, diaries, poems, journal entries, legal documents, and academic
scholarship.  The class will also include
a consideration of autobiography in relation to writing happening through
Facebook and blogs. You will write on topics that include, for example, food,
money, illness, family, ethnic or racial identity.


As we address questions of what autobiography is, we also will consider
questions such as the following:  Why do
you want to write autobiography, and what strategies will best enable you to
fulfill your purposes and motives?  What
are the ethical issues involved in deciding whether or not to write and publish
stories that might shame your family or violate their privacy, and what are
some ways autobiographers are able to preserve the privacy of those whom they
might want to protect?  To what extent is
the story that you tell about yourself determined by the genres and cultural
narratives available to you?  If you’re
interested in challenging or revising these narratives, to what sources can you
turn? Does writing autobiography necessarily entail valuing individual or
purely personal concerns over more communal social or political ones? If and
when is it okay (or is it ever okay) to lie? What constitutes lying? How have
social media such as Facebook changed our understandings of what constitutes
the self, and the line between the public and the private?


Please note:
This course has a Contemporary Ethical
Issues (E) Focus designation.
Contemporary ethical issues are fully
integrated into the main course material and constitute well over 30% of the
course content. A significant portion of class time will be spent discussing
ethical issues. Through the use of lectures, discussions and reading and
writing assignments, you will develop basic competency in recognizing and
analyzing ethical issues; on responsibly deliberating on ethical issues; and
making ethically determined judgments.



Short writing exercises (~10%); participation in writing workshops
(~10%); a minimum of 20 pages of polished autobiographical writing (~65%);
contributions to the creation of an anthology of writings by the class (~10%);
an end-of-the-semester portfolio (~5%). 
Attendance is mandatory; please do not sign up for this course if you
anticipate that regular attendance will be a problem.



Readings will be compiled in a COURSE READER or made available as PDFs
on Laulima.