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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Michael Craig Hillmann

Associate Faculty , The University of Chicago, M.A. 1969, Ph.D. 1974; Texas State University, M.A. 1997

Michael Craig Hillmann


  • Phone: 512-475-6606
  • Office: CAL 400
  • Office Hours: Fall 2013: W 9 am – 12 noon, and by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: F9400


Persian (Farsi and Tajiki) language and literature; Iranian art and culture; literary autobiography; lyric verse

WGS 340 • Self-Revlatn In Women's Wrt

47075 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm MEZ B0.302
(also listed as AFR 374, C L 323, MES 322K, PRS 361 )
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Course Description

Persian lyric poetry from the Iranian plateau and beyond and American prose fiction constitute two of the most vital literary traditions in world literature. This course deals with one prominent figure in each, the Iranian lyric poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967) and the American fiction writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). A three-fold rationale accounts for the comparative pairing and study of these two writers and their works in the course. First, both writers have special and similar relationships to the literary traditions in which they wrote because of their gender and because of Farrokhzad's lack of participation in Muslim culture and Hurston's African ancestry. Second, Farrokhzad and Hurston exhibit similar subject matter interests and points of view, presumably in part because of their modernist perspectives and similar removes from mainstream cultural and social power bases. Third, they use prose fiction and lyric poetry, respectively, as vehicles for self-revelation and self-realization. Such self- revelation has particular significance both because of its cultural unexpectedness in their respective traditions and because of mixed consequent mainstream reaction to it.



As the following list of required course readings implies, course attention will focus on close readings of the chief writings of Hurston and Farrokhzad in the contexts of the practice of autobiography and Iranian vis-à-vis American culture.

Farrokhzad, Forugh. Sounds That Remain: Forty Poems in English Translation. Introduced and translated by Michael Craig Hillmann. 1988.

Hillmann, Michael Craig. "An Autobiographical Voice: Forugh Farrokhzad." Women's Autobiographies in Contemporary Iran. 1990.

__________. "Dust Tracks on a Road as Autobiography." Zora Neale Hurston Forum. 1997. Hurston, Zora Neale. "Drenched in Light." 1924. __________. Dust Tracks on a Road. 1942. __________. Jonah’s Gourd Vine. 1934.

__________. Seraph on the Suwanee. 1948. __________. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937.


Grading & Requirements

Course grades will relate to: (1) class participation [20% of the course grade]; (2) two oral presentations, one a report on an assigned primary course (i.e., a poem or a discrete part of a novel) and the second a report on an assigned secondary source (i.e., a biography or a theoretical or critical study) [15% of the course grade each]; (3) a review test on the third to the last day of the course [25% of the course grade]; and (4) a research paper on a subject determined in consultation with the instructor [25% of the course grade].

WGS 340 • Autobiog: A Modern Lit Species

47641 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 500pm-630pm GAR 1.126
(also listed as AFR 374, C L 323, MES 322K )
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Much of the literary world remains in a golden age of auto/biography. Because the very word "autobiography" only came into the English language two hundred years ago and because some scholars hesitate to apply the term to writing before Rousseau's Confessions (1782-9), the form would appear to embody values and deal with issues peculiar to modern humankind. Consequently, the study of literary autobiographies might reveal salient and distinctive features of modern perspectives and world views. Notions of "intellectual" (Edward Shils) and "individual(ity)" (Karl Weintraub) are two. Because some rich literary cultures around the world do not have literary auto/biographical narratives (as distinguished from life stories in general) as a major literary form, the study of autobiography might highlight cultural differences among otherwise "modern" perspectives in different cultures. The idea of the modern (Irving Howe) may prove a Western notion in such terms.


Course work involves close reading of classic autobiographical writings, presented in chronological order after a look at biography, seen as an essentially different literary species. The reading focusses both on specific theoretical and literary critical issues introduced in class and discussed in Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (2010, second edition) by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson and on literary qualities of the writing as narrative. In conjunction with required reading, students keep a journal, devoted to their responses to the readings and their perceptions of their own individuality and life stories.


The required course texts are  a packet of photocopied materials (including Plutarch’s “Life of Brutus”) and these paperbacks: Reading Autobiography by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Confessions by Augustine of Hippo, The Book of Margery Kempe, Essays by Montaigne, The Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Autobiography by Ben Franklin, Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston, A Stone on a Grave by Jalal Al-e Ahmad, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez–An Autobiography by Richard Rodriguez.


Grading: The bases for course grades are (1) preparedness for and participation in class discussion (30% of the course grade); (2) an autobiographical journal (of impressions of course readings and reflections on individuality and the modern), photocopied four-page sections of which are critiqued as writing at four points during the course (40% of the course grade); and two review tests (15% of the course grade each). The grading scale used in the course is: A (93-100), A- (90-92), B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C- (70-72), D+ (67-69), D (63-66), D- (60-62), and F (0-59). The course has no final examination.


About the Instructor. Michael Craig Hillmann (M.A., Ph.D., Persian Studies, The University of Chicago) concentrated on autobiographical writing in his graduate study of English literature at Texas State University at San Marcos (M.A., 1997) and has published essays on autobiographical writing by Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Maya Angelou, Forugh Farrokhzad, Sadegh Hedayat, and Zora Neale Hurston. Hillmann has also authored two autobiographical narratives, From Durham to Tehran (1991) and From Classroom to Courtroom (2008), and is at work on To and From a Village in Maine, the final volume in the trilogy.

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