Syllabus for English 391W. E4W3A

In this course, we will explore multiple forms of autobiography in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and come to our own definitions of the genre in its current state. Topics for investigation will include confession and revelation; fictionalization; marginalization and the development of the self; and experimental writing.

Course Goals:

Students will

  • Learn to develop, research, and complete a seminar research paper.
  • Investigate multiple genres of autobiographical form in an effort to understand what constitutes writing the self, and the self in writing
  • Read critical theories of autobiography, and apply the such criticism to their own work.
  • Develop communication of their own ideas through online and in-class discussions of assigned texts.

Required Texts

Available at the Queens College bookstore.

Autobiography Linda Anderson (ISBN-10: 0415186358)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,
Alison Bechdel (ISBN-10: 0618871713)
, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (ISBN-10: 0520261291)
The Kiss
, Kathryn Harrison (ISBN-10: 0380731479)
My Life
, Lyn Hejinian (ISBN-10: 1931243336)
A Small Place
, Jamaica Kincaid (ISBN-10: 0374527075)
The Things They Carried
, Tim O’Brien (ISBN-10: 0618706410 or any version)
, Alice Sebold (ISBN-10: 0316096199)
To Bedlam and Partway Back
, Anne Sexton (can be found in The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton, ISBN-10: 0395957761)
Native Guard
, Natasha Trethewey (ISBN-10: 0618872655)

Course Requirements:

Attendance and Class Participation:

Student are required to arrive on time and prepared to discuss the week’s readings. Students are also expected to participate in class discussion by contributing their own analyses of and questions regarding the topics on hand. Frequent lateness, absences, and lack of preparedness will result in a lower grade.

Student Blogs:

Each student will set up an individual course blog on that will link to the main course blog. (For further instructions you can go to the course blog.) Students must write weekly posts that respond to that week’s readings; each week, on the course blog, I will post a specific writing prompt encouraging consideration of specific topics in response to the text.  Blog posts should in some way respond to these prompts. Weekly blog posts must be published prior to the start of class. Students are also expected to write at least one but preferably multiple responses per week to another student’s posts. These responses can be written either prior to or following class discussion. Note: The URL for the course blog is

There will also be additional blog writing assignments throughout the semester. These will ask students to respond to specific questions regarding the development of the seminar research paper.

Mini-Research Glossary Project:

As a class, we will create a glossary of terms pertaining to autobiography. Each student will choose one term from the list provided and research multiple definitions, applications, and examples of that term. Students will then create a page on their blog that includes pertinent information and definitions. Research must be cited in MLA format. This project will provide students with practice in incorporating, citing, and paraphrasing research, which will be significant for the final paper. Each student will briefly present their term in class. Details to follow.

Seminar Research Paper:

Students will write a 10-12 page research paper, due at the end of the semester. The writing of the paper will be divided into three separate assignments: A prospectus with annotated bibliography, a first draft of 5-6 pages, and a final draft. Students are free to choose any topic related to the course.

Breakdown of grade:

Class/Blog Participation: 20%

Glossary Project: 10%

Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography: 10%

First Draft of Research Paper: 20%

Final Research Paper: 40%

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