Teaching Life Writing Texts

  • Editors: Miriam Fuchs, Craig Howes
  • Pages: ix & 400 pp.
  • Published: 2008
  • ISBN: 9780873528207 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9780873528191 (Cloth)
Teaching Life Writing Texts Cover

“Howes and Fuchs have spanned a remarkable breadth in terms of where their writers come from, the sorts of schools they teach in, and the life writing issues on which they focus. The result is a veritable gold mine for both teaching and research.”

—Susanna Egan, author, Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography

“This book is an invaluable pedagogical and theoretical resource. The extensive bibliography . . . is truly impressive.”

MLR

The past thirty years have witnessed a rapid growth in the number and variety of courses and programs that study life writing from literary, philosophical, psychological, and cultural perspectives. The field has evolved from the traditional approach that biographies and autobiographies were always about prominent people—historically significant persons, the nobility, celebrities, writers—to the conception of life writing as a genre of interrogation and revelation. The texts now studied include memoirs, testimonios, diaries, oral histories, genealogies, and group biographies and extend to resources in the visual and plastic arts, in films and videos, and on the Internet. Today the tensions between canonical and emergent life writing texts, between the famous and the formerly unrepresented, are making the study of biography and autobiography a far more nuanced and multifarious activity.

This volume in the MLA series Options for Teaching builds on and complements earlier work on pedagogical issues in life writing studies. Over forty contributors from a broad range of educational institutions describe courses for every level of postsecondary instruction. Some writers draw heavily on literary and cultural theory; others share their assignments and weekly syllabi. Many essays grapple with texts that represent disability, illness, abuse, and depression; ethnic, sexual and racial discrimination; crises and catastrophes; witnessing and testimonials; human rights violations; and genocide. The classes described are taught in humanities, cultural studies, social science, and language departments and are located in, among other countries, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Eritrea, and South Africa.

Timothy Dow Adams
Arturo Arias
Thomas J. D. Armbrecht
Kathleen Boardman
Alison Booth
Sarah Brophy
Trev Lynn Broughton
Suzanne L. Bunkers
David Caplan
Sandra Chait
Julia Clancy-Smith
Hilary Clark
Julie F. Codell
Judith Lütge Coullie
G. Thomas Couser
Martin A. Danahay
Kate Douglas
Richard Freadman
Leigh Gilmore
Gabriele Helms
Cynthia Huff
Georgia Johnston
Margaretta Jolly
David Houston Jones
Daniel Heath Justice
Joanne Karpinski
Jeraldine R. Kraver
John Mepham
Susannah B. Mintz
Joycelyn K. Moody
Ghirmai Negash
Gail Y. Okawa
Frances Freeman Paden
Iulia Patrut, Kristine Peleg
James W. Pipkin
Roger J. Porter
Katrina M. Powell
Sarah Sceats
Stanley Schab
Thomas R. Smith
Gary Totten
Gillian Whitlock
Kenneth Womack
Michael W. Young

Acknowledgments (xi)

 Introduction (1)

Miriam Fuchs and Craig Howes

Part I: Generic Approaches

Literary Studies

Introduction to World Narrative (23)

Roger J. Porter

Slipping Away, Sliding Around: Teaching Autobiography as—and Not as—History and Genre (32)

Thomas R. Smith

Life Writing and Biographical Fiction: Contemporary Teaching and Learning Strategies (38)

David Houston Jones

Diaries and Diarists (45)

Suzanne L. Bunkers

Teaching Travel Writing as Life Writing (53)

Gary Totten

Teaching “The Lives of the Victorians”: A Historical Approach to Changing Conventions of Life Narrative (59)

Alison Booth

Modernist American Literature and Life Writing (68)

David Caplan

The Subject of Drugs (74)

Martin A. Danahay

Sports Autobiographies and American Culture (81)

James W. Pipkin

Writing the Self (91)

John Mepham and Sarah Sceats

The Generic Instability of Contemporary Life Writing in Canada (99)

Gabriele Helms

A + B ≠ B + A: Teaching Autobiographies and Biographies in Pairs (107)

Timothy Dow Adams

Biography, Oral History, Autobiography: A Graduate Course (115)

Craig Howes

Interdisciplinary Approaches

A Text of Their Own: Life Writing as an Introduction to Undergraduate English Studies (122)

Cynthia Huff

Teaching Rachel Calof ’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (129)

Kristine Peleg

Reading, Writing, Performing Life Writing: Multiple Constructions of Self (135)

Katrina M. Powell

“In My Life”: Growing Up with the Beatles from Liverpool to Abbey Road (143)

Kenneth Womack

The Whole Picture: Using Nonliterary Forms of Artistic Production to Teach Life Writing (151)

Thomas J. D. Armbrecht

Life Writings as New Cultural Contexts for the Meanings of Art and Artist (161)

Julie F. Codell

Emblematic Sculptures: The Artwork of Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Life Writing Classroom (171)

Frances Freeman Paden

A Graduate Seminar in Life Writing: Posing and Composing Lives (180)

Miriam Fuchs

Additional Resources for Teaching Life Writing Texts: Generic Approaches (191)

Part II: Cultural Approaches

Times and Places

The Many Voices of Creation: Early American and Canadian Life Writing (195)

Michael W. Young

Experiencing Collaborative Autobiography (201)

Kathleen Boardman

Teaching Contemporary Australian Autobiography (208)

Richard Freadman

Located Subjects (214)

Gillian Whitlock and Kate Douglas

Life Writing in the New South Africa (221)

Judith Lütge Coullie

An Undergraduate and Graduate Colloquium in Social History and Biography in the Modern Middle East and North Africa (233)

Julia Clancy-Smith

Teaching Multicultural Life-History Writing Texts through Technology’s Third Space: Reflections on a University of Washington–University of Asmara Collaboration (239)

Sandra Chait and Ghirmai Negash

Ethnographic and Autoethnographic Approaches

No Indian Is an Island: On the Ethics of Teaching Indigenous Life Writing Texts (252)

Daniel Heath Justice

Women, Race, Reading, and Feeling: Postmemory in Undergraduate Studies of Slave Narratives (260)

Joycelyn K. Moody

Olaudah Equiano and the Concept of Culture (270)

Sarah Brophy

Eastern European Oral Narratives of the Walled-Up Wife and Their Retelling in Recent Life Writing Texts (277)

Iulia-Karin Patrut

Discerning Diversity in American Lives (286)

Joanne Karpinski

Reading and Writing Ethnography (292)

Jeraldine R. Kraver

Close Encounters: (Re)Teaching Ethnic Autobiography as Autoethnography (303)

GailY.Okawa

Teaching Testimonio: A New, Ex-Centric Design Emerges (310)

Arturo Arias

Gendered and Sexual Orientation Approaches

Anxiety of Choice: Teaching Contemporary Women’s Autobiography (318)

Susannah B. Mintz

Teaching Jo Spence’s Putting Myself in the Picture: Pedagogy and Life Writing in and outside the University (327)

Margaretta Jolly

Teaching Queer Lives (336)

Georgia Johnston

Cultures of Life Writing (343)

Trev Lynn Broughton

Illness and Disability Approaches

Quality-of-Life Writing: Illness, Disability, and Representation (350)

G.Thomas Couser

Teaching Women’s Depression Memoirs: Healing, Testimony, and Critique (359)

Hilary Clark

What Do We Teach When We Teach Trauma? (367)

Leigh Gilmore

Additional Resources for Teaching Life Writing: Cultural Approaches (374)

Life Writing Resources for Teachers (376)

Miriam Fuchs, Craig Howes, and Stanley Schab

Notes on Contributors (383)

Index (391)