BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR COURSES
BAM 70100: Forms of Life Writing
3 credits, Tuesdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Brenda Wineapple
Class nbr 57213
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 70500: The Ethics of Public Biography: Historicizing ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power)
3 credits, Mondays, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Sarah Schulman
Class nbr 58422
1987-1993 were the most effective years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), New York. Perhaps the most recent American social movement to be effective, its history can be helpful to those of us working for social transformation today. Yet, the most rewarded representations have narrowed the story of ACT UP to a parody, focusing on white male individuals, instead of the diverse and extended community of which ACT UP was an organizational nexus. Using film, primary documents and relying on interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project www.actuporalhsitory.org , students will examine how false histories get told and contrast these dominant myths with the actual evidence.
BAM 70500: Multi-genre creative writing as a path to memoir
3 credits, Wednesdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Bridgett Davis
Class nbr 57216
The best memoirs are at their heart a quest. As the memoirist you are searching to understand how and why key events in your life happened, and you are bringing the reader along on what is a fact-finding yet emotional journey.
Key to this journey is investigative work: via interviews, combing through personal documents and researching cultural context, you will uncover answers -- even to questions you didn’t know you had. This research must anchor your story to the truth, because memoir is about the truth. But it must equally ignite your imagination, because memoir is also about the art of invention.
How you serve these two gods comes down to craft. Your goal should be to tell a true story that reads like good fiction, that unfurls in the reader’s mind like a good film. Drawing on my own skill set, I will explore with you how this feat is accomplished: by employing techniques used by novelists, writers of creative nonfiction, journalists and screenwriters. When applied to your own writing and done effectively, the result will be compelling memoir.
COURSES FROM OTHER PROGRAMS
HIST 72600: Biography and International History
3 credits, Thursdays, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM, Manu Bhagavan
Biography is a popular form of historical writing, often appreciated for its narrative form and accessibility. Generally, biography follows the life of a particular individual (or of ideas, disease, or material objects) and sees the world unfold from the point of view (or in relation to) their chosen subject of study. This course explores the global history the twentieth century through a series of such narratives. Each book we read will offer a unique perspective and set of insights onto overlapping events, focusing especially on, but not limited to, the stories of pioneering women who made contributions of international consequence. How do we remember major events of the twentieth century? Who gets credited for their action and who does not? Who gets left out entirely? Why? And how do our understandings of the past change as we look at it through new eyes?
ENGL 87000: Serial Narratives.
4 credits, Thursdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Marc Dolan
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
This course will consider the popularity and peculiar aesthetics of longform, open narratives over the last two hundred years, from the romans-feuilleton of Eugene Sue’s day down to the streaming video obsessions of our own.
The specific balance of classes will be determined by student interest but the course will be purposely multimedia, and will probably include classes on the following topics: Victorian magazine serials; the silent film-and-newspaper serials of the Progressive/Edwardian era; Irna Philips’ creation of the soap opera in Chicago radio (and its continuation into the television era); the shift from yellowback and pulp novels into comic books during the 1940s; and the continued popularity and reinvention of Coronation Street and Doctor Who. Some attention will also be paid to the effect serialization has on conceptually closed narratives (e.g., Dickens and James’ encounters with serialization; telenovelas). Secondary readings will be drawn from structuralist narratology and media studies.
Students from all area groups are welcome, and they will be encouraged to choose forms and topics for their final projects that tie the course’s more general themes into their specific needs and areas of focus
ENGL 89000: Mining the Archives, Reinterpreting the Past
4 credits, Wednesdays, 11:45AM – 1:45PM, David Reynolds
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
During the past two decades, a revolution has occurred in scholarship: troves of archival materials that were once very hard to access and search have been digitized and put online. Rare books; entire runs of newspapers; obscure pamphlets; letters; manuscripts; images—these are some of the rich resources that are now universally available and instantly searchable. The implications for the study of literature, popular culture, history, and biography are immense. With the help of now-available archives, previously unnoticed dimensions of past cultures can be explored. Famous figures or writings of the past can be placed in fresh contexts, and new ones can be unearthed. And it’s not only primary research that has profited from digitalization: so has secondary research. An ever-increasing number of scholarly journals and books are online. This surfeit of online material, however, brings new challenges. How does one sort through the apparently endless digitized archives? How do we take notes without accumulating masses of mere trivia? Most importantly, what are the most effective strategies for using archival research as the basis for writing original essays or book-length monographs? How do we move from the raw material of the archive to the publishable article or book? This course addresses such issues. Students from any field or period concentration will have the opportunity to explore online archives that are especially interesting to them and relevant to their work. Each student will also visit at least one physical archive in order get hands-on exposure to works of interest and to seek out material that has not been digitized. Class readings include articles or book chapters about archival research. Students will periodically report to the class about their progress in the archives and will write a term paper based on their research.
NON-CREDIT COURSES FROM THE WRITING CENTER
The Writing Center manages a range of professional development courses designed to help students at the Graduate Center in their careers and professional activities. These courses do not carry credit, are ungraded, and do not appear on the student’s transcript. Students register for these courses as they do their academic classes: log into CUNYFirst; go to Student Center and select “Search,” which takes you to the “Search for Classes” page. Select the institution (Graduate Center) and term, and enter the course number (listed below).
Public Writing for Academics (PDEV 79406)
0 credits, Prof. Briallen Hopper—Wednesdays, 4:15-6:15 PM
More and more, academically trained writers are writing for public audiences. Participating in public writing can be a way for academic writers to contribute to important conversations, to make their work meaningful in new ways, to expand and advance their careers, and to re-engage with their own research on a personal level. Taught by a faculty member with broad experience in public writing, and featuring a range of similarly experienced guest speakers who write in genres including personal essays, political journalism, cultural criticism, op-eds, and public-facing books, this course offers practical guidance and workshop opportunities to students who want to convey their academic expertise to a wider public.
Dr. Briallen Hopper, who will be teaching this course, is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY. Her first book, Hard to Love (Bloomsbury, 2019), is a collection of essays about love and friendship. Her essays, reviews, op-eds, profiles, listicles, and sermons have appeared in Avidly, Beliefnet, Black Business Now, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia Journal, The Conversation, Crosscurrents, Document Journal, HuffPost, KtB, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Inquiry, The New Republic, Newsweek, New York Magazine/The Cut, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Religion & Politics, Sacred Matters, The Seattle Star, The Stranger, Take Part, Talking Points Memo and The Yale Review. She is the editor of the online literary magazine KtB and an associate editor at the UK-based independent press And Other Stories.
- Sarah Blackwood, Associate Professor of English at Pace University and author of The Portrait's Subject: Inventing Inner Life in Nineteenth-Century America (UNC Press, 2019). Co-founder and co-editor of Avidly and co-editor of the book series Avidly Reads, published by NYU Press. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Slate, The Hairpin, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
- Scott Poulson-Bryan, Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University. Author of The VIPs: A Novel (Random House, 2011); Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America (Doubleday, 2006); and co-author of What’s Your Hi-Fi Q? 30 Years of African American Music. Founding co-editor of VIBE Magazine and author of over seventy articles in venues such as The New York Time, Rolling Stone, Spin, Ebony, The Village Voice, The Source, and London’s The Guardian.
Effective Academic Writing for Native English Speakers (PDEV 79403)
0 credits, Prof. David Hershinow—Mondays, 6:30-8:30 PM
This course grounds students in the fundamental elements that inform all argument-based academic writing in order to help them better understand and navigate the sometimes bewildering away of genres in which they are expected to write, from seminar papers and conference presentations to grant applications and dissertation proposals to theses, dissertations, job letters, abstracts, and journal articles. At once a seminar and a workshop, this course combines opportunities for peer review with instruction in the genres of academic writing, revision techniques, advanced outlining, the art of the paragraph, methods for overcoming writer’s block, and other skills. The syllabus will be developed in coordination with students’ stated interests and needs.
Effective Academic Writing for Non-Native English Speakers (PDEV 79403)
0 credits, Prof. Sharon Utakis—Tuesdays, 11:45 AM-1:45 PM
This course is a workshop that aims to help non-native English-speaking students take control of their writing process as they move forward in their graduate studies. We look at the conventions that shape academic writing, keeping in mind that these conventions vary from discipline to discipline and from genre to genre. We focus on the writing process by looking at various steps we can take in order to create “effective academic writing,” with emphasis on discussing writing in progress. Students work on improving writing projects connected to their coursework. We deal with grammar and other writing convention issues as needed.
Teaching Strategies (PDEV 79401)
0 credits, Prof. Luke Waltzer—Fridays, 11:45 AM-1:45 PM
This course provides Graduate Center students with community and structure to help them prepare for and reflect on their development as teachers. This work proceeds from an understanding of the social contexts of teaching, as well as the positionalities of graduate student instructors and adjuncts. This discussion-based course will use brief theoretical readings to facilitate participants’ development of their own teaching philosophies and materials. The curriculum and structure will be responsive to the needs of the group, and to the instructional realities of the moments in when we are teaching. The course will have particular utility for instructors who are preparing for, or are in the process of adjusting to, teaching online as a result of the 2020 public health crisis. Foundational topics include classroom community, student-centered and active learning approaches, accessibility, course design and policies, lesson planning, assignment design, assessment, educational technology, writing pedagogy, affective responses in classroom settings, and Critical University Studies. This course is designed for those who are preparing to (or are) teaching for the first time, as well as more experienced instructors who want a communal, reflective space on pedagogy.