E 380F • Literature for Writers: Autobiography Who?
12:30 PM-3:30 PM
Autobiography Who? Like the term "self-expression," "autobiography" may be backwards. It is more accurate, perhaps, to refer to creative work as expression creating the self rather than that expression arising from a pre-existent self, and the autobiographical urge, a basic one, as preceding its subject. Knock, knock. Who's there? (As begins Hamlet, the greatest Knock Knock Joke in literature.) The various responses to that question in the works we will read in this class constitute aesthetic decisions and structural and stylistic explorations as much as, if not at times at odds with, notions of documenting historically fixed subjects and events. Every autobiography must invent the author to write it, and that author is the sum of artistic choices in conversation with past conventions, the result of impulses both conservatory and reckless. I know everything I write is autobiographical, I just don't know who it's about.
Reading; Hamlet, William Shakespeare The Prelude, William Wordsworth (1805 version) Song of Myself, Walt Whitman (1855 version) Nadja, Andre Breton Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror, John Ashbery Ariel, Sylvia Plath Dream Songs, John Berryman (first 77) My Life, Lyn Hejinian I Remember, Joe Brainard Promises of Glass, Michael Palmer