Memoirs and autobiographies are topping the non-fiction bestseller lists. Does our 21st century preoccupation with identity differ in degree or in kind from such concerns in the past? Are women writer's "telling a free story" or charting familiar gender-based terrain? This course will examine works by women who have found their ways back from various deforming experiences through the act of writing itself. The first half of the course reviews early forms of American survival narratives, such as those by Mary Rowlandson, Elizabeth Ashbridge, and Elizabeth House Trist; then turn to the slave narrative (Harriet Jacobs and others); and then look at some influential early 20th century works by Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf. The second half will include more contemporary works by women (Audre Lord, Judith Cofer, Adeline Yen Mah, Francine Cournos, are among the possibilities) who have survived social or biological "disease" and reshaped their struggles into forms of art. Supplementary criticism, presentations, weekly critiques, a final project that may include autobiographical writing.