Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Autobiography and Fiction

ENGL 276.601
instructor(s):
T 4:30-7:10

A two-part course, combining the literary study and practice of autobiographical and imaginative uses of the self, from the most explicit (the journal) to most removed. The class will discuss the readings in social and historical context and as models of the scope, techniques, and resources of the forms. Among the chief authors and their works are James Boswell, London Journal; representative sections of the Life of Johnson, the biography which Boswell developed in part from his journal; James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse and Moments of Being; and at least another modern work, autobiography, novel, or drama, to be selected in collaboration with the class. The student will present a brief oral report, the basis of on e of two short critical papers(4-5 pp.) on the readings; there will also be amid-term (but no final) examination. For the first six weeks of the course, the student will keep a journal, the source of the third written assignment: a short story, chapter of an auto biography or biography; one-act play, poem, or any other literary work approximating ten or twelve pages in length. The focus throughout the course will be on the problems of arriving at the "truth" of a life, interior as well as "factual," and on the means by which personal experience is made art. The instructor will require physical evidence of the student's journal but neither read nor grade it.