American Biography

AMST 370, Spring 2014

This course examines the personal experiences, insights, and reflections of writers who have contributed to American life from its foundation to the present. We will pay particular attention to non-fictional narratives from multi-ethnic artists who affirm and critique American history, culture, and identity. Variations in tone, perspective, and form shape the genres of life-writing. Memoir, biography, autobiography, “as told to” narratives, confessions, tales, dispatches, and reminiscences each have their peculiarities. Students will learn to use a variety of analytical methods from literary studies, cultural studies, and American studies to situate diverse authors and subjects within specific cultural and historical contexts. We will explore the tropes and discourses used by writers to define and redefine the American experience.

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts 
Leslie Marmon Silko, Storyteller
Richard Wright, Black Boy