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Special Study: Get a Life: Forms of (Auto)biography

  • Module code: CW6005
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of level 5 Creative Writing requirements or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This year-long module focuses on the study and creative practice of (auto)biography and memoir, some of the most interesting and thriving literary genres. It is aimed at those students tempted by the idea of writing about their own and others’ lives, wishing to read a variety of life stories and examine the many different ways in which a life story can become a book. We will explore exciting examples of autobiographical writing, looking at the highly literary and the popular bestsellers alike. Authors will range from Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein to Tracey Emin and Cheryl Cole, or another of your favourite – or most irritating -- celebrities and his or her ghost writer.  We will sample, and experiment in, some of the many subgenres of life writing, which include childhood narratives, investigations of family secrets, testimony, graphic memoir, illness memoir, stories of trauma and abuse, war memoir, celebrity autobiography, and many others. Conceptual analysis will be reinforced by practical work designed to enable you to understand the issues in relation to your own creative life writing project.

Aims

  • permit a detailed and extensive study of a specific genre of creative writing, its conventions and its representative examples
  • provide students with a sophisticated understanding of pertinent theoretical contexts and debates, and the historical and social contexts of the genre.
  • give guidance in investigating and trying out different techniques within the genre which is being studied
  • provide students with an opportunity to develop a sustained piece of creative writing within the specialized genre

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  • present a detailed knowledge and understanding of a particular genre and its conventions
  • analyse the ways in which texts in that genre relate to pertinent social, historical, intellectual, and/or theoretical contexts
  • demonstrate the ability to write a sustained creative piece within the specified genre
  • display an ability to work independently and to manage time efficiently

Curriculum content

  • general introduction to issues related to the genre, its conventions, and its history
  • examination of such issues and conventions across a range of authors in, and texts belonging to, the selected genre
  • sustained discussion and analysis of texts in relationship to their historical, cultural and theoretical contexts
  • extensive consideration of the ways in which the chosen texts reveal characteristic themes, styles, and concerns of the defined genre
  • an opportunity to apply the knowledge of the genre and the insight into its conventions to individual writing projects

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught in two-hour workshops. For each workshop, students will be expected to follow an extensive programme of reading and to complete writing exercises within the genre under scrutiny. Activities within the workshop will remain as flexible as possible to allow the module to adapt to student interests and questions as they develop from readings, discussions, peer reviews and practical writing within the genre. They will include formal analysis of texts, a variety of writing exercises and peer review of individual work within the genre. Each two hour teaching session will be both analytical and practical: it will include the discussion of a set text with regards to its form and its social, theoretical and historical context, and the practice of writing in the genre under scrutiny. Practical work may involve writing exercises, the presentation of drafts of individual projects, and peer-led feedback.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Whole group workshops 26
Guided independent study 274
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Assessment strategy for this module is designed to test students’ knowledge and conceptual understanding of a specialised genre of creative writing and their ability to apply this understanding to their own practice within it. Formative assessment is delivered through the fortnightly workshops, peer review, group tutorial process and individual feedback. Summative assessment is delivered through a Special Study Portfolio (100%) which includes: a creative writing project within the specified genre amounting to 6,000 words or equivalent (70%), a 2,000 word critical essay (20%); and a set of workshop-related tasks such as reading logs or writing exercises (10%)

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
present a detailed knowledge and understanding of a particular genre and its conventions Assessed formatively through formative feedback, and peer-review sessions. Assessed summatively through the Special Study Portfolio (100%)
analyse the ways in which texts in that genre relate to pertinent social, historical, intellectual, and/or theoretical contexts Assessed formatively through formative feedback, and peer-review sessions. Assessed summatively through the Special Study Portfolio (100%)
demonstrate the ability to write a sustained creative piece within the specified genre Assessed formatively through formative feedback, and peer-review sessions. Assessed summatively through the Special Study Portfolio (100%)
display an ability to work independently and to manage time efficiently Assessed formatively through formative feedback, and peer-review sessions. Assessed summatively through the Special Study Portfolio (100%)

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Portfolio 100
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS a requirement that the major category of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Writing Auto/biography (indicative special study option):

  • Coetzee, J.M., Scenes from a Provincial Life (London: Vintage, 2012)
  • Lorde, Audre, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. A Biomythography (Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1982)
  • Nabokov, Vladimir, Speak, Memory (London: Penguin, 1967)
  • Satrapi, Marjane, Persepolis (London: Vintage, 2008)
  • Stein, Gertrude, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (London: Penguin, 1933)
  • Woolf, Virginia, “A Sketch of the Past” in: Moments of Being (London: Pimlico, 2002)

Bibliography recommended reading

Writing Auto/biography (indicative special study option):

  • Backscheider, Paula, Reflections on Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • Batchelor, John, ed., The Art of Literary Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Bostridge, Mark, ed., Lives for Sale: Biographers’ Tales (London: Continuum, 2004)
  • Caramello, Charles, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and the Biographical Act (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)
  • Eakin, Paul John, ed., The Ethics of Life Writing (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004)
  • Ellis, David, Literary Lives: Biography and the Search for Understanding (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000)
  • France, Peter, and William St Clair, eds, Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Hamilton, Nigel, Biography: A Brief History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)
  • Lee, Hermione, Body Parts: Essays on Life Writing (London: Chatto and Windus, 2005)
  • Lively, Penelope, Making it Up (London: Penguin, 2006)

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