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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2008

T C 357 • The Mirror or Writing Self: Memoirs, Confessions, Autobiographies

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43720 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
MEZ 1.204

Course Description

In this course we shall explore how writers from various civilizations explore themselves and portray their insight into a physical sight in words to convey the vision: "ergo sum": Thus I Am! The art of writing takes the measure of the human being as s/he defines the self with all the foibles and personal accomplishments seeking at heart to seduce the reader and making what amounts to an apologia pro vita sua: a defense of how one lived. It becomes a challenge to the reader: can you live up to my accomplishments? It can be a warning: don't follow this path! The mirroring of the Self, like a series of Rembrandt self-portraits, attempts to capture time in movement and is necessarily a response to the great Proustian question: In search of lost time! The writing of the Self permits the greatest honesty - at times self delusional - or the most monstrous of lies passed off as truth and hidden in fiction or words! The Writing Self, the genres of Memoirs, confessions, autobiographies, portraits, diaries, journals, etc. will be scrutinized by us, the readers, and interpreted to discover what type of lives have we before us. What techniques of expression are used to enrapture us and convince us of the truth within. Why the differences in genres usage? What insights can we gain from reading about anothers life from various ages and cultures? How great are the differences of the human condition does the study of the these expressions of the individual writing reveal or inversely how universal is the human condition that responds equally to certain human givens as desire, hate, love, doubt and mortality. What makes the study of such texts so appealing is that we enter in dialogue with some of the most remarkble human beings in history who have agitated fellow human beings over the ages and served as models of admiration or scorn. Like the Roman general whose tombstone states: Sum quod eritis: You will be what I am!, a marvelous wit that stands the test of time, the study of the Writing Self and its mirror the book before us will lead us into gales of laughter, moments of probity, hours of delight, an awareness of tragedy and a sense of hope if not redemption from the fluidity of time. The writing Self, the mirror, the text proves its victory over time when you begin to read its pages. Let us explore how man for the past three thousand years attempts to mirror himself in language to convince you s/he exists and thus you do too!


Saint Augustine, Confessions
Rousseau, Confessions
Cellini, My Life
Herzen, My Life and my Past
Proust, Swann's Way [Combray]
Casanova, The Story of My Life
Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book
Hoffman, Lost in Translation
Sarashina, As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams


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