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C LIT 252 A: Introduction To Comparative Literature: Genres

Course Flyer: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 10:30am - 12:20pm
SAV 130
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 296 A
Sokoloff photo
Naomi Sokoloff

Syllabus Description:

Introduction to Genres: Autobiography, Memoir, and More

C LIT   252A/NEAR E 296A

5 credits

VLPA for C LIT 252A    I&S for NEAR E 296A

MW 10:30-12:20

Savery 130


Professor Naomi Sokoloff

Denny Hall 220



This course explores varieties of life narrative, including autobiography, memoir, diary, autobiographical fiction, and poetic autobiography. Along with a focus on written, print texts, we will also consider other media, such as graphic novel and adaptations of prose into film, as well as blogs, first person documentary, and new digital modes of self expression.

Life writing is a heterogeneous genre that encompasses a wide range of themes and includes multiple subgenres: confession, conversion narratives, testimony, language memoir (memoir dealing with multilingualism), ecobiography (narratives dealing with self in relation to place), jockography (life stories dealing with sports), autie-biography (accounts of living with autism), and many more.  This course will provide students with an overview of autobiographical forms, while introducing them to the history of the genre and how it has developed. Particular attention will go toward discussing conceptions of identity and how ideas about narrating the self have changed over time and in different cultural contexts.

By examining texts that come from a diverse array of languages and literary traditions (English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Turkish) we will consider, as Paul John Eakin puts it, “how our lives become stories” and also how the stories we tell about our lives help shape who we are and how we perceive the world.


Required texts:


Sayed Kashua, Dancing Arabs

Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis

Some materials, including poems and lecture notes, will be available at the course website:


Course Requirements

Students are expected to complete the reading assignments on time, to participate in class discussion, and to hand in brief writing assignments (homework or in-class exercises) on a regular basis. Homework may include summaries of and/or responses to the reading. There will be two tests (no final exam) and one project (that will include a class presentation and a written component).

Final grades will be determined as follows:

  • Tests: 30%
  • Project: 40%
  • Homework and in-class writing: 30%


April 23:  Test #1 + then a Guest speaker. Prof. Selim Kuru. BE SURE TO ATTEND CLASS!

April 30: Guest speaker, Gabriel Skoog. BE SURE TO TO ATTEND CLASS!

May 21: First draft of project due for in-class workshop

May 23: Test #2

June 6: Final draft of project due


Reading Assignments

Unit I: Introduction -  “Strategies for Reading Life Writing”

 Anne Frank , The Diary of a Young Girl  - selections


 Unit II:  Autobiography - Classic Texts, Historical Trajectories

St. Augustine,  Jean Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin – excerpts


Unit III:  The Memoir Boom (since the 1990s) and Language Memoir

Excerpts from

               Aharon Appelfeld, Story of a Life

               Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory

                Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

                Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation

                Jumpha Lahiri - In Other Words 


Unit IV – Fictional Autobiography/autobiographical fiction

Sayed Kashua, Dancing Arabs


Unit V:  Space and Memory

Orhan Pamuk – Istanbul: Memoir of a City - excerpts

Guest lecture:  Prof.  Selim Kuru (NELC and CLCM)


Unit VI:  Graphic Novel

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 


Unit VII:  Blogs and Online Selves

Rachel Kolb, “Perception Unearthed”


Unit VIII: Relational Autobiography and Film

Sarah Polley, “Stories We Tell”


Unit IX: Poetry and Self-Writing

Selected poems, including:

               Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

               Emily Dickinson – “I’m nobody, who are you”




 If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924.  If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor and discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.

In cases of academic misconduct, such as plagiarism or receiving inappropriate assistance on an assignment, offending students will be penalized in accordance with the policy of the College of Arts and Sciences. If you are unsure what constitutes plagiarism or how to properly attribute credit to source materials, consult with the instructor.

At times it may be useful to access the internet during discussion, but please turn off any distracting electronic devices when in class (such as cell phone ringers).

Please keep a copy of all graded work. This is very useful in case the instructor’s record of grades is lost or damaged, or in case the student wishes to discuss a grade.  Protect yourself by keeping a copy.

For additional guidelines on plagiarism, incompletes, grade appeal, concerns about an instructor, equal opportunity, disability accommodations, and sexual harassment, see the homepage of our course website.



Attendance and class participation are important to the learning process. However, if you have symptoms of contagious illness – such as sniffles, sneezes, a cough, a sore throat, or a fever – please do not come to class. We will figure out a way to cover the material so that your learning and your grades will not suffer. 


It is important that we take care of ourselves inside and outside of class by learning how to care for our body, mind and spirit. Toward that end, there are many different kinds of support services on campus, including the Counseling Center, Hall Health, and the IMA. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend who is struggling, Safecampus, at 1-800-685-7233, is a very helpful resources to learn more about how to access campus-based support services. Please save the number for Safecampus, 1-800-685-7233, into your cell phones."


Suggested Secondary Reading

Sidonie Smith, Reading Autobiography

Paul John Eakin, How Our Lives Become Stories

Ben Yagoda, Memoir: A History

Michael A. Chaney, ed. Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels


George C. Rosenwald and Richard L. Ochberg, Storied Lives: The Cultural Politics of Self-Understanding

Catalog Description: 
Reading and analyzing literature based upon rotating genres such as sci-fi, detective fiction, romance, love, poetry, and comedy. Draws from world literature.
Department Requirements Met: 
Pre-req to Declare Literature Major
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
February 9, 2018 - 9:21pm