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The Examined Life: Introduction to Biography

ENGL 476.640
W 5:30-8:10

This course will explore the history and genre of biography, including the emergence and significance of such biographical forms as the autobiography , diary, and sketch. We will look at biography as craft, as cultural function, and as personal history, and consider how it expresses prevailing assumptions about human nature--about what makes us who we are, what makes us significant enough to be biographical subjects. We will ponder the role of the biographer, and discuss which and why particular facts or "biographies" are chosen to elucidate particular lives, such as the life of the criminal, the artist, the scientist, the slave, the woman. Along with brief response papers to assigned readings, members of the seminar will be asked to demonstrate their expanded knowledge of the genre by means of a larger (20-25 page) project, such as an autobiographical sketch, or a revised chapter of a published biography.