Special Topics and Course Descriptions

Fall 2017


EN 570 Seminar in American Literature

Instructor: Dr. Amy Hamilton; amyhamil@nmu.edu

The idea of the "great American novel" is widespread and often a bit of a cultural joke. But, if pressed, what are the greatest American novels? What are the books with which any self-respecting English MA or MFA holder "should" be familiar? Of course, if you ask this question you will get as many answers as people you ask. This course covers a sampling of major American novels, novels that capture important parts of American history, novels that have influenced other storytellers in significant ways, novels that are brilliant and often beautiful. A caveat - this is not a complete list. There are holes. But these books will offer students tools for deepening and broadening their knowledge of American literary traditions.

And they will read some wonderful books along the way.


Tentative reading list:


Melville, Moby-Dick

Silko, Almanac of the Dead

Morrison, Beloved

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Hawthorne, House of the Seven Gables

McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Wallace, Infinite Jest

Welch, Winter in the Blood



EN 590 Modern Life-Writing: Public Texts, Private Selves

Instructor: Dr. Caroline Krzakowski; ckrzakow@nmu.edu

In this seminar, we will read a variety of texts by modern British writers that have been defined as “life-writing”—memoir, biography, autobiography, diary—and engage critically with these genres. In recent years, the resurgence of interest in life-writing has been marked by shifts in thinking about the everyday, about the construction of the subject, and about time and interiority. We will ask what modern life-writing shares with antecedents such as Augustine’s Confessions, Montaigne’s Essais, and Pepys’ Diary and think about how modernity has shifted ideas about self-impression and self-inscription. Some of the questions that will drive our discussion include: how does memory shape the writing of a life and the changing subject? What constitutes self-impression and how do the abstraction and impersonality characteristic of modernity affect how writers write the self as a changing subject? How do forms such as the novel enter into dialogue with genres and practices of life-writing? Along the way, we will read contemporary critical and theoretical texts that shed light on the concerns of these types of texts, their literariness, and the relationship between autobiography and fiction.


Primary Texts:


Virginia Woolf, Selections from Diaries Vols. I-V (1909-1941).

Harold Nicolson, Selections from Diaries (1929-1964).

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922).

Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (1933).

George Orwell, Such, Such Were the Joys (1952).

Jessica Mitford, Daughters and Rebels (1960).

Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman (1987).

Buchi Emecheta, Head Above Water (1986).

Muriel Spark, Curriulum Vitae (1992).

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (2001).

Jeanette Winterson, Why be Happy if you Could be Normal? (2011).


Secondary texts: (Please refer to EduCat for selections)


Di Battista, Maria. Modernism and Autobiography.

Jolly, Margaretta. Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms.

Butler, Judith. Giving an Account of Oneself.

Berryman, Charles, “Critical mirrors: Theories of Autobiography.” Mosaic 32.1 

Hodgkin, Katharine and Susannah Radstone. Contested Pasts: The Politics of Memory.

Marcus, Laura. Autobiographical Discourses.

Saunders, Max. Self-Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature.

Whitehead, Anne. Memory.