English | Seminar: Literary Form, Mode, and Theme
L460 | 2043 | Woodcock


1:25p-3:20p W (15) 3 cr

TOPIC: SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY

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, and are not necessarily religious.  The inspirations for their
writing vary--in one case a serious illness, in another a subtly
increasing sense of dissatisfaction--but all seek a 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.