Topic/Fiction:Form & Technique
Term: Spring 2021 - Full Term (02/01/2021 - 05/11/2021)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Times & Locations
|Start Date||End Date||Days||Time||Location|
|2/1/2021||5/11/2021||T||5:10pm - 8:00pm||HS 201|
This course will be devoted to the study of novels and stories that fall under the murky category of “autofiction.” Though exceedingly difficult to define, the genre of autofiction can be understood as a blend of memoir and fiction, in which the author assumes the role of themselves in a narrative, while simultaneously maintaining the rhetorical freedom to digress from any measure of conventional “truth.” Or, in more plain language: a novel that reads like a memoir, but the author/writer/narrator starts making stuff up that never happened.
We’ll ask a lot of questions in this class: Why does autofiction, as a genre, exist? Why are some books sold as autofictions when they could very well be sold as memoir? Why do some authors create autofictional personas—with new names, but similar life experiences—rather than assume a position of total narrative transparency? How does autofiction differ from autobiographical fiction? How does it differ from autobiography?
Our reading list will focus on contemporary autofiction by Sheila Heti, Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, and Karl Ove Knausgard, Ocean Vuong, Maggie Nelson, Sigrid Nunez, Jenny Zhang and others. We’ll also have a look at early forms of autofiction that predate the term’s coinage. Students should be prepared to read and write critically and also to experiment writing their own autofictions.