Forms of Autobiographical Writing

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA2034

Semester and Year Offered: February 2017 (BOS)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Akhil Katyal (currently)

Email of course coordinator: akhilkatyal[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

The course will focus on various modes of writing in which the question of writing the self plays the central role. This includes diary, memoirs, letters and of course autobiography. The course aims to encourage autobiographical writing that overcomes the boundary between the real and the imagined. With a close reading of these autobiographical narratives, the students will learn the various writerly strategies at work in them, and will be encouraged to employ these, wherever suitable, in their own autobiographical work produced for the course.

Course Outcomes:

  • Disciplinary knowledge: To introduce students to an extensive range and scope of autobiographical writing, in terms of form and content
  • To make the students critically scrutinize the relationship between writing and the self, thus enabling attributes such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning
  • Reflective thinking and appreciation of aesthetic values: To make the students reflect closely on their experiences and life-events and their amenability to narrative
  • Disciplinary knowledge: To understand theories of the self, particularly in relation to literary writing

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module One: Women’s Autobiography: An exploration of writing of the woman’s self in the history of autobiography as a genre, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (ed.), Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader, University of Wisconsin Press: 1998.

Module Two: Why it matters for women to seek to relate life and narrative. Tsuda Umeko, Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda's Correspondence to Her American Mother, WeatherHill: 1991.; Makiko Nakano, Kazuko Smith, Makiko's Diary: A Merchant Wife in 1910 Kyoto, Stanford University Press: 1995; Anne Walthall, The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration, University of Chicago Press: 1998.

Module Three: The signature of the present; the present as context: the ‘I’ as shifter: Selections from Kamuf, Peggy (ed.), A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, Columbia University Press: 1991.; Emile Benveniste, Problems of General Linguistics, University of Miami Press: 1971.

Module Four: The fictional use of autobiographical narrative, and in women’s writing: Sayo Masuda, Autobiography of a Geisha, Columbia University Press: 2005; Natsume Soseki, I am a Cat, Tuttle Publishing: 2001; Oe Kenzaburo, A Personal Matter, Grove Press: 2011, Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book, Penguin Classics: 2007.

Module Five: How do women earn the right to narrate a life in fiction?: Politics of the Women’s Autobiography: Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman, Rutgers University Press: 1987.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class Participation: 35% (attendance 10%; responses and asking questions 25%)
  • Module 1&2 Response Paper: 20% (due Sep 23rd ; grades issued Oct 3rd)
  • Module 3 Response Paper: 10% (due Oct 21st; grades issued Oct 28th)
  • Final Term Paper presentation: 20% (due Nov 16th/ Nov 18th)
  • Final Term Paper submission: 15% (Dec 5; part of final grade computation)

Reading List:

For Module-wise Reading List, see above.