Topics: Literary Memoir with Dr. Sue Sorensen meets on Monday & Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. in Room B132

ENGL 3950-1 is planned as an in-person class on the CMU campus, with no Zoom option. The class will not be recorded. Assignments will be submitted in hard copy, in person, unless otherwise arranged.

Topics in English: (3.0 credit hours) The content of this course will vary from year to year, depending on the needs of students and the interests and availability of instructors. 
THIS YEAR'S MODEL: Literary Memoir
Certain autobiographical narratives have qualities that align with literary fiction or poetry. Literary memoirists merge stylistic qualities of fiction and non-fiction, choosing particular perspectives (grief, comedy, travel, confession) to frame their personal histories. We will consider influential book-length memoirs by writers such as Maya Angelou, Augustine, James Baldwin, Alison Bechdel, Frederick Douglass, Temple Grandin, Clive James, Mary Karr, Patrick Lane, Patricia Lockwood, Helen Macdonald, Jan Morris, Michael Ondaatje, Marjane Satrapi, David Sedaris, and Henry David Thoreau.

This course will be a joint investigative project for all of us and I anticipate adaptability and variety in our methods. Meetings will be discussion-based. In addition to working with the literary works on our common reading list students will explore and analyze the work of (an)other memoirist(s) on our supplementary list. These authors will form the basis for short presentations and a major paper. As much as possible, students will help each other in formulating ideas and offering suggestions in the composition of papers. Students will be treated as scholars capable of producing original academic work of professional quality.
   Some of the issues which will recur include the blurring of literary genre borders, risks in emphasizing trauma, conflicting attitudes toward truth-telling, manipulation of factual events, and ethics of exploiting other people’s experiences. Another way of putting some of these questions: In writing a creative autobiography, where does my story end and your story begin?