L206 2100 WOODCOCK
Introduction to Non-Fictional Prose

9:30a-10:45a TR (30) 3 cr.


This course focuses on modern spiritual autobiography, a selection of twentieth-century works that in one way or another involve writer and reader in a quest for the meaning of a life. Our authors are women and men, both religious and non-religious. The inspirations for their writing vary in seriousness from a subtly increasing sense of dissatisfaction through illness and soul-threatening environment to mortal threat, but all seek a new and more meaningful definition of themselves in relation to their world. In our discussions we will approach the readings as life stories--in other words, as part of the larger genre of autobiography--but we will give particular attention to the nature of the spiritual quest at the core of each narrative, and to the author's way of presenting the journey of self-discovery or -transformation. We will spend some time early in the semester studying personal journals and their relation to autobiography.

There will be two kinds of writing assignments: frequent one-page responses to questions we will ask of the readings, and a longer project which may be critical or autobiographical. Students will make a group presentation to the class on an author, theme, or critical question. The short papers together and the longer project will each contribute about 40% to the final grade for the course, and class contribution will make up the remaining 20%. The reading list is not yet final, but it will contain most of the following works and several others: Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face; Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life; Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation; Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life; Richard Wright, Black Boy