--understand the historical/cultural contexts of autobiographical texts, and how the latter resist and transform those contexts.
--understand how an author’s own gender, ideology, social class and religion shapes his/her textual self-representation.
--explore the ways in which the self is presented and shaped by different literary and narrative forms, probe the relationship between truth and fiction in narrative, and reflect on the tension between invention and disclosure.
--demonstrate an informed awareness of key theories concerning life writing and the “construction” of the self.
Course Content (Syllabus)
This course examines diverse modes of textual self-representation (autobiographies, diaries, letters) from the early modern period to the present. Particular emphasis is placed on seventeenth-century autobiographical texts as it was in this period that life writings of various kinds began to proliferate. We look into the historical, cultural and ideological reasons that explain this proliferation and seek to understand the complex interactions between these self-representations and the world within which they were produced. We follow a similar process of interpretation in the study of texts from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and we will conclude with a brief look into contemporary self-representations in social media (facebook, twitter, etc.). Students will also have to study a number of critical texts on theoretical issues related to the “construction” of the self and autobiographical writing.
(from the five volumes of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th edition)
Margery Kempe, pp. 425-426
Julian of Norwich, pp. 414-415, 423-424
“Writing the Self” pp. 1867-1868
John Foxe, pp. 687-688
Lucy Hutchinson, pp. 1868-1871
Anne Halkett, pp. 1874-1878
D. Waugh, pp. 1878-1880
Margaret Cavendish, 1888-1891
Samuel Pepys, pp. 2260-2269
Frances Burney, pp. 2992-2997, 3005-3011
De Quincey, pp. 567-569
William Wordsworth, pp. 356-370, 398-402.
John Stuart Mill, pp. 1115-1122
Harriet Martineau, pp. 1616-1619
Anonymous, pp. 1620-1624
*Some more primary texts will be available on the e-learning platform.
Select critical texts will be assigned each week and will be available on the e-learning platform. They constitute essential reading and will be discussed in detail in class. Students are expected to be familiar with them to contribute to their analysis. Understanding these texts will also be necessary for successful performance in the final exams.
Additional bibliography for study
Georges Gusdorf, “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography.” In Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Ed. James Olney. Princeton U P, 1980, pp. 28-48.
Mary Mason, “The Other Voice: Autobiographies of Women Writers.” In Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Ed. James Olney. Princeton U P, 1980, pp. 207-235.
Effie Botonaki, “Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen's Spiritual Diaries: Self-Examination, Covenanting, and Account Keeping.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, 30: 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 3-21.
Linda Anderson, Autobiography. London: Routledge, 2001. Read pp.18-27 (on Augustine’s Confessions), and consult the Glossary (pp. 134-141) if you need to.
Stefano Calzati and Roberto Simanowski, “Self-narratives on social networks:trans-platform stories and acebook’s metamorphosis into a postmodern semiautomated repository.” Biography 41: 1 (Winter 2018), pp. 24-47.
Maria DiBattista and Emily O. Wittman, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography. Cambridge University Press, 2014. Read Chapter 2 (pp. 23-34), by A. H. Becker, on Augustine’s Confessions, and Chapter 4 (pp. 49-57), by L. D. Kritzman, on Montaigne and autobiography.
Paul John Eakin, “Does Autobiography Have a Future?” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 32:2 (2017), pp. 271-273.
Anne-Marie Millim, “The Victorian Diary: Between the Public and the Private.” Literature Compass (2010): 977–988.
Judy Simons, Diaries and journals of literary women from Fanny Burney to Virginia Woolf .” Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1990, pp. 169-188.
Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. “The Visual-Verbal-Virtual Contexts of Life Narrative.” Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010, pp. 167-168, 183-191.
John Wiltshire, “Early nineteenth-century pathography: the case of Frances Burney.” Literature and History 2: (2 Fall 1993), pp. 9-23.