American Autobiography and American Literature

Module code: AM3022

‘Autobiography,’ says critic Robert Sayre, ‘may be the preeminent kind of American expression’. American culture has always attached great value to the individual and personal development; and autobiography - in one form or another - has always flourished in America.

In this module you'll read a number of American autobiographical works, mainly (though not exclusively) from the modern and contemporary periods, examining the various literary, cultural and political purposes behind the selves and lives they present. Alongside each of the primary works, you'll read in addition a critical essay on some aspect of the history or theory of autobiography. You'll also produce a short creative, first-person (fictional or autobiographical) piece of your own, more or less coordinated with the works you're studying.

The critical and creative aspects of the course will be mutually supportive, and creative writing will give you alternative ways of exploring the primary works and critical issues, while providing both stimulus and guidance for your own creative writing.