Scott Sanders

2:30p-3:45p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC: “Memoirs”

In this course we will read and discuss a number of memoirs by American writers, mainly from the last ten or twenty years. In examining each book, we will pay close attention to the way memory serves to establish a sense of self, the way narrative reveals or creates patterns in experience, and the way the thread of an individual life is woven into larger contexts, such as family, community, nature, religion, or history. We will read perhaps seven or eight books, and we will spend one or two weeks on each, depending on its length and complexity. You will be asked to write for each book a short (1-2 page) response, which may be either “creative” or “critical” (to use those clumsy categories). In addition, you will be asked to write a 4-5 page essay at mid- semester, and an 8-10 page essay at the end of the semester. Here are some of the books I’m considering: Kim Barnes, In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in an Unknown Country; Annie Dillard, The Writing Life; Bernard Cooper, The Bill from My Father; Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking; Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning; Patricia Hampl, A Romantic Education; Barry Lopez, About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory; James McBride, The Color of Water; Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography; Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory; Scott Russell Sanders, A Private History of Awe; Mark Spragg, Where Rivers Change Direction; Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place; Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life: A Memoir. The class will be conducted as a discussion, and therefore thorough preparation and faithful attendance are crucial. Grades will be based primarily on the quality of your written work, and secondarily on the quality of your participation in class.