English 206b
Theresa Tensuan
MW 12:30-2:00


American Autobiography:
Narrating Memory, Inscribing Identity, Recasting History

In this course, we will read a range of texts which foreground critical and political issues in the art of self-representation.  In our discussions of Gertrude Stein’s  Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Joe Sacco’s reporting on the war in Eastern Bosnia, and Art Spiegleman’s graphic narrative of his family’s experiences in Hitler’s Europe and in a post-W.W. II United States, we will raise questions about how our definitions of the genre of autobiography inflect our views of the authorial persona, our assessments of narrative “truth,”  and our interpretations of the memories and histories put forth in the texts.  In studying Malcolm X’s conversion narratives alongside Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir of a “girlhood among ghosts” and Gary Soto’s stories of growing up Chicano in the contested territories of California, we will look closely at how these narratives negotiate constructions of gender, class, and race in relation to the rhetorics of individual and national identity.  Our turn to the work of Rebecca Solnit,  Eli Clare, John Rybicki and Eric Michaelswill enable us to reflect on the interrelations between the configuration of one’s environment and the constitution of one’s body, and on our own critical and creative investments in acts of writing, reading, and interpretation.

Course Requirements: You will write two short ( 5-7 page) papers over the course of the semester, and a longer (8-10 page) project at the end of the semester.  You will also be writing  weekly reflections and will take part in a small group presentation on one of the works on the syllabus.

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride
Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Eric Michaels, Unbecoming
John Rybicki, We Bed Down in the Water
Joe Sacco, Safe Area Gorazde
Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
Gary Soto, A Summer Life
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Course enrollment is limited to 30 students