Crucial Different Lives, Narrated (Auto-)Biographies
Full course description
“Crucially Different Lives, Narrated (Auto-) biographies” is designed to explore life stories/histories and auto/biographical writing in relation to the construction of differences we studied in Course A and B. It provides the opportunity to mobilize the insights you have gained during the previous two courses, by making use of them in analysing texts and doing narrative interviews that document a “history from below” and the 'crucially different' life of a person you have chosen. How do the discussions that you came across in these courses inform the lives of men and women from all walks of life? In what ways are differences that we have discussed lived, remembered, and written/narrated by so-called ‘authors of the self’? What exactly is the connection between autobiography and contemporary theorizing about the subject and the so called “death of the subject”? How can differences be read, interpreted, and written by the authors of an-other’s life? How are they narrated and acted in narrations and performances of the self?
This course aims to come closer to understanding differences through shifting the level of analysis to that of the individual self. It will start on the premise that the differences we have studied so far are not only constructed in discourse and power relations, but also orally narrated and represented in life-writing-documents. However, in individual ‘biographical work’, and minority stories the social scripts, gender norms and stereotypes of ‘Otherness’ are not only performed and repeated, but also exceeded. Rather than looking at constructions and performances of crucially different lives as separate ends, we will learn they exist in a continuum. Auto/biographical accounts — whether they are written, visualized or narrated— offer the possibility to investigate how the two approaches are interwoven into auto/biographical texts. The course will provide you with skills of reading and interpreting auto-biographical literature as well as with interview skills to conduct narrative interviews and analyse the biographical work of your interviewee. The course aims to assist you in analyzing the ways in which the categories of gender, ‘race’, class, and sexuality interact with one another in the formation of subjectivity, differences and ‘different’ selves.
After completion of this course, students are able to:
- understand the narrative construction of self and differences in shifting focus to the individual level;
- do a close-reading life-writing documents from biographies to literary fiction;
- demonstrate knowledge of (auto-)biography studies, narrative approach, and life-writing;
- able to apply theoretical knowledge on gender and diversity studies to a concrete case study;
- apply theories of narratology, biographical work, and life-writing to their project;
- define how individual “biographical work” and minority self-stories perform but also work through and go beyond mainstream discourses and stereotypes;
- reflect on the ethical dimension of qualitative interviews, decide about their narrative material and their use of the interview for the research project;
- present the individual story of their interviewee in a broader cultural-political context;
- conduct qualitative interviews and develop a research project.
- Cederberg, M. (2014): Public Discourse and Migrant Stories of Integration and Inequality – Language and Power in Biographical Narrative, Sociology, 48 (1)
- John Eakin: How Lives become Stories. Making Selves, 1999
- Sidonie Smith & Julia Watson: (2001). Reading Autobiography. A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, University of Minnesota Press.
- I.L.J. Melchior