Intro to Lit: Creative Writing: Life Writing and Trauma



ENGLISH 273: CREATIVE WRITING (Life Writing and Trauma)

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:30 – 11:45 a.m.

Office Hours: TR 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. and by appointment

CRN: 84222




Trauma is often viewed as inaccessible or unrepresentable in autobiography/life writing theory. So how do we represent lived experiences of trauma without trivializing violence and suffering for those who experienced it?  Autobiographical accounts of trauma can represent everyday suffering and catastrophic events. Autobiographical accounts of trauma are important to the field of life writing because they challenge power structures—political and social, for example—and humanize those impacted by trauma. We are often bombarded by representation of trauma in the news, in movies, and in society. Are we desensitized by these representations of trauma? So how do we read autobiographical representations of suffering and violence experienced by people in a way to challenges desensitization?

In this course will read life writing texts that convey the lived experiences of trauma. We will examine how these autobiographical accounts bear witness to large-scale violence, everyday suffering, challenge overarching narratives of power, navigate identity, and much more. We will discover ways we can interact with texts that deal with difficult subject matter. In other words, we will learn to navigate and respond to autobiographical texts that represent trauma.

Additionally, you will be experimenting with creative writing techniques to produce your own creative nonfiction work. While this course does focus on trauma narratives, the creative nonfiction portfolio you produce for this class does not necessarily have to engage with trauma. Instead, your portfolio will consider self-representation through creative writing techniques such as narrative focalization, summary and scene, detail and description, and voice.



  • Grealy, Lucy Autobiography of a Face
  • Saif, Atef Abu The Drone Eats with Me
  • Menchu, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place
  • Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me
  • Spiegelman, Art. Maus: My Father Bleeds History

Additional essays will be posted on Laulima as PDFs



Attendance and Participation                    15%

Midterm Reflection Paper                       10%

Weekly Laulima Responses                    10%

Two analytical essays (1,200 word per)   20% (10% each)

Portfolio and Presentation                       20%

Workshop                                              10%

Final                                                       15%

In preparation for your portfolio, we will workshop two of your original autobiography/creative nonfiction essays. You are required to participate in writing workshops.

Please contact me if you have questions