Thursday, December 21, 2017

New MALAS Seminar, Spring 2018

ENG 606A / MALAS 600A
The American Memoir 
Laurie Champion | Spring 2018 

This course will consider the evolution of the memoir as a genre and look at how it was originally undefined, then defined, then redefined, even as it continues to evolve. We will trace its roots from early American texts such as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which Franklin referred to as his “memoirs,” to contemporary memoirs that spark lively debates regarding specifics of literary genres, boundaries between truth and lies, and influences on memory such as “personal life effects.” We will address texts labeled as “chronicles,” “confessions,” “biographies,” or “autobiographies” that might be considered memoirs. We will touch upon classic memoirs such as Willie Morris’s North Towards Home and Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time, then consider the popularity of the American memoir after the publication of Mary Karr’s 1995 memoir The Liar’s Club. We will debate issues such as factual truth versus conceptual truth, modes of memory, and how memoirs compare to fiction and to other forms of nonfiction. We will explore texts such as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes: A Fictional Memoir, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, Tony Earley’s Somehow Form a Family: Stories That Are Mostly True, David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Art Spielegman’s Maus: A Survivor's Tale, and other texts that blur boundaries between memoir, biography, autobiography, and between nonfiction and fiction. We will also analyze motifs and trends that recur throughout subgenres of the memoir such as captivity narratives, misery lit, celebrity stories, stories about addiction, and travel journals. 

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