ENG 497 Seminar in English Literature |
Narrative Theory and Contemporary Memoir
Once upon a time, according to the historians of life-writing, only the Great wrote autobiographies and memoirs: great kings and leaders, great artists, great geniuses. But toward the end of the twentieth century, the Freudian/Modernist inquiry into subjectivity, the Marxist valorization of the common person's role in history, and poststructuralism's interest in social location as a (or the) determinant of identity all conspired to lay the groundwork for a burgeoning of the genre. At the turn of the millennium, the field includes dozens of permutations, but, in this seminar, we will concentrate on coming-of-age memoirs, using the insights of narrative theory to explore the choices writers have made (of incident, of persona, of chronological revelation, of tone). To understand first hand the demands of such choices, students will compose and workshop a ten-page work of life-writing in addition to completing a linked series of short scholarly essays that will prepare them to write their final seminar paper. Our texts may be drawn from among the following: Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, Li Young Lee's The Winged Seed, Kim Barnes's In the Wilderness, Peter Balakian's Black Dog of Fate , Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, Mark Doty's Firebird, Greg Bottom's Angelhead, Antwone Fisher's Finding Fish, Marie Arana's American Chica, Jimmy Santiago Baca's A Place to Stand , Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Linda Hogan's The Woman Who Watches Over the World, and Nasdijj's The Blood Runs Like A River Through My Dreams. This course is offered in the fall semester.