Studies: Life Writing

In this course we will study works of life writing that take seriously the feminist slogan from the 1960s that “the personal is political,” looking to memoir and related life-writing genres as vehicles to explore the  possibilities of telling personal stories towards ends that are political. We will study the texts of this class as they spark, emerge out of, respond to, and participate in specific political movements (BLM, BDS, Idle No More, LandBack, #MeToo), and, more broadly, in struggles for decolonial, abolitionist, and feminist futures in Palestine and Turtle Island (or North America). We will consider the political work that personal writings can and cannot do in comparison to other genres, both for individuals and communities who partake in these movements and struggles, and in effecting societal change. To undertake this study, we will put the key texts for the course in dialogue with theoretical essays, political manifestos and essays, and historical essays.

In work for the course, including for the final project, you will have the opportunity to write your own life narratives engaging the key concerns and questions for the course, or you may choose an approach that combines close textual analysis and research–or you may take a mixed-genre approach.

This class will meet in-person.

CW: Material we will be reading and discussing include descriptions of sensitive or disturbing topics (these include military violence; gender-based, sexual, and domestic violence; racism; substance abuse), so please be ready for this in taking this class. We also will work together to develop a set of best practices and guidelines that allow for  the exploration of difficult topics in ways that also help create a community of care in the classroom.

Assignments: One short essay of 5-6 pages (personal narrative); a seminar project of 12-15 pages (research component; may be a life narrative); biweekly letters to the class (350-700 words each); class presentation + annotated bibliography.

Tentative listing of texts: Atef Abu Saif, THE DRONE EATS WITH ME; Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele, WHEN THEY CALL YOU A TERRORIST (Young Adult Version); Ta-nehisi Coates, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME; Carmen Machado, IN THE DREAM HOUSE; Chanel Miller, KNOW MY NAME; Steven Salaita, UNCIVIL RITES; Raja Shehadeh, PALESTINIAN WALKS; Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, REHEARSALS FOR LIVING