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Fall 2019

BAM 70100 – Forms of Life Writing
Tuesday, 6:30 -8:30 PM, Room: 6421, Brenda Wineapple
This course will interrogate various forms of so-called "life writing" (biography/fictional biography/memoir) to investigate the meaning, aims, ethics, pitfalls, and possibilities of the genre as practiced in literature.  We will therefore examine a wide range of topics that various forms of life-writing encounter: the relation between fact and fiction; the significance of politics and historical context; the impact of individual psychology; point of view in narration; the function of imagination; the use or exploitation of marginal figures.  And to the extent that life-writing depends on the creation of character, this course looks closely at how such characters are created from real people: how a living, breathing person seems to arise out of a mass of sometimes contradictory “facts”; how characters are made to change, that is, if they do; how characters can make a story move; and of course how or if forms of life-writing might be liberated from its traditional borders.
BAM 70200  – Research and Methodology
Monday, 6:30 -8:30 PM, Room: 3307, 4 credits, Prof. Katherine Culkin
This core course will teach students historical methodologies and basic research skills in the writing of biography or memoir. They will learn how biographers and autobiographers acquire information through interview techniques, oral history collections, research in government and private archives, or sophisticated use of databases and digital humanities sources. Students will make personal trips to New York area archives and libraries, and will conduct practice oral history interviews with sources.
Course site - 
HIST 75200 - Warriors against Slavery: Lincoln, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass
Wednesday, 2-4 pm, Room: 3307, David Reynolds
 This course examines three leading antislavery figures of the Civil War era.  The three took action against the slave power’s increasing dominance of the U. S. government--Lincoln through politics, Douglass through authorship and lecturing, and Brown through violence. Douglass’s autobiographies, which span much of the nineteenth century, provide a vivid record of slavery, abolitionism, and Reconstruction.  His speeches and journalism illustrate his unceasing commitment to the cause of African Americans. Equally devoted to that cause was John Brown, of whom Douglass said, “I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” We will trace Brown’s evolution, from his days as an Underground Railroad operative through his antislavery battles in Kansas to his doomed raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which he hoped would lead to the fall of slavery but which instead resulted in his martyrdom on the gallows. Lincoln worked within the political system to end slavery. His speeches, debates, and public letters stand as timeless declarations of freedom and equality. His firm leadership of the nation during its most divided time established him as American’s greatest president. Despite their different approaches to slavery, these three antislavery leaders were connected in surprising ways. This course explores both the linkages and dissimilarities between the three. It also considers them against the background of the American Revolution, the Constitution, proslavery and antislavery thought, and cultural phenomena such as religion and popular literature. We will read key primary and secondary texts related to the three, including a definitive biography of each.
FSCP 81000 - The Biographical Film: Editing a Life
Thursday, 4:15-7:15 PM, Room C419, Marc Dolan (
     This course will survey a range of examples of one of the most common film genres of the last century: the biographical film.  In our meetings, we will pay special attention to how the preparation and execution of film biographies resemble and depart from that of their print equivalents.
     In our introductory class we will watch a sampling of one-reel biographies from the first few decades of filmmaking, and then move swiftly in our second week to Abel Gance’s wide-screen tricolor epic Napoleon (1927).  (We will probably view the latter film in conjunction with Stanley Kubrick’s notes for his ultimately unproduced film on the same subject.)  Next, we will engage Alexander Korda’s pioneeringly satirical The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) and Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), two films that are oddly resonant with contemporary trends in midcentury print biography, the debunking and Annales strains respectively.  Our early twentieth-century unit will then conclude with Daniel Mann’s sincerely melodramatic I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), a popular biographical film of its time that had been almost instantly adapted from Lilian Roth’s bestselling 1954 memoir.
     By this point in film history, the biographical genre was so well-established that filmmakers could play with it more.  In the late twentieth-century, biographical film took more turns toward segmented or selective depictions of a subject’s life, as witnessed by David Lean’s grand slice of a life Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Andrei Tarkovsky’s six-piece, meditative Andrei Rublev (1966), and Spike Lee’s stylized and similarly segmented Malcolm X (1992).  Our survey will conclude with two special cases: Todd Haynes’ range of archetypal biography from Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988) to I’m Not There (2007); and Shkehar Kapur and Cate Blanchett’s decade-long collaboration on a single biographical subject in Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).  Our last weeks of meetings before student presentations will form a transhistorical coda for the course, with classes on parallel film biographies of Cleopatra (from DeMille/Colbert, Mankiewicz/Taylor, Roddam/Varela, and others) and Abraham Lincoln (from Griffith/Huston, Ford/Fonda, Spielberg/Day-Lewis, and others).
     Readings will be assigned from such works as George F. Custen‘s Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History, Dennis P. Bingham’s Whose Lives Are They Anyway?: Biopic as Contemporary Film, Ellen Cheshire’s Bio-Pics: A Life in Pictures, and at least chapter 3 of Rick Altman’s Film/Genre, as well as individually apposite biographical excerpts.   

MALS 70400 - Mothers in Law
Monday, 11:45am – 1:45pm, Room: C415A, Sara McDougall and Julie Suk
This course will introduce students to central issues in the history and sociology of law, through the study of motherhood.  The lens of motherhood will open up broader themes in the study of law and society, including categories such as gender, constitutionalism, and criminal justice. Studying the socio-legal history of motherhood will enable students to learn the skills of legal reasoning, utilize methods of legal-historical research, and pursue experiential learning through field studies, panel discussions open to the public, and the authoring of publicly available teaching materials on select topics.
First, we will explore how ideas of women as mothers have been enshrined in law, from the legal definition of the mother in civil law, to the legal treatment of pregnancy.
Second, this course will study women as lawmakers, as "founding mothers" of twentieth-century constitutions, and laws more generally.  We will explore biographies of women lawyers and lawmakers.
Third, we will consider mothers as law-breakers, by engaging the history of mothers in prison, and the current legal issues arising from incarceration of mothers.  This component of the course may include field trips to engage the criminal justice system.