Jun 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 421 - Writing the Self

Letters, Diaries, and Notebooks as Literary Forms
Instructor: Staff

This seminar looks at the ways that writers, often from marginalized communities, used “non-literary” forms such as letters, diaries or notebooks as a form of expression when traditional avenues of publication or literary recognition were not available to them. In addition to looking at texts from various literary traditions we will also examine the ways that contemporary writers have returned to these forms, including a consideration of blogs and social media as part of the contemporary expression of these forms.


Instructor: S. Campbell

Looking into the past to make sense of the present pervades non-fiction writing.  This type of reflection emerges in a variety of forms and lengths, including the brief personal memoir, the podcast, and the multi-volume autobiography.  Whereas autobiography explores large pieces of a life in an effort to explain a whole person, the memoir uses a narrow focus, what William Zinsser terms a “window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition” (136).  We will read memoirs that provide windows into the childhoods and adulthoods of people of varied classes, ethnicities, and experiences.  Students will approach the genre both critically and creatively, exploring what it means and can mean to write the self.