Curriculum and Courses

The M.A. in Biography and Memoir requires a total of 30 credits, arranged as follows:

  • Four required core courses (12 credits):
    Forms of Life Writing
    Research and Methodology in Biography and Memoir
    Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir
    Writing and Style in Biography and Memoir
  • Four or more electives (12-15 credits) from across the Graduate Center's masters and doctoral programs. Options range from English, history, and art history to film studies, urban politics, and psychology.
  • Culminating thesis or capstone project (3 credits) and optional writing workshop (3 credits)

Courses

View our current and past semester courses below. Courses are also accessible via CUNY's Dynamic Course Schedule.

For all registration dates and deadlines, see the GC academic calendar

FALL 2022 M.A. PROGRAM IN BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR COURSE OFFERINGS

 

BAM 70100: Forms of Life Writing
3 credits, Wednesdays, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Hybrid
Professor Jason Tougaw
Class number 40981

fall_2022_70100_tougaw_syllabus.pdf

In this course, we will examine formal experiments in life writing—biography, memoir, and works that combine the genres—as models for our own writing. Any life story is also the story of others. Our readings will emphasize forms of narration that grapple with relations between self and others, with intimacy and distance, with personal experience and cultural history. In the process, we’ll examine interwoven questions about the ethics of life writing; fact, fiction, subjectivity, and truth; memory and imagination; historical context and character development; style and point of view. To complement the longer readings, we’ll read short craft essays and theoretical articles. Students will experiment with writing about a subject of their choice in a variety of forms, including a Wikipedia entry or website, a preface, a footnote, an obituary, a series of social media posts, and a biographical or autobiographical essay.

BAM 70400: Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir
3 credits, Tuesdays, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Hybrid
Professor Ava Chin
Class number 40980

fall_2022_70400_chin_syllabus.pdf

This course explores the range of ethical issues that pertain to memoir and biography, and investigates how writers and authors approach them. Utilizing a variety of texts, including nonfiction graphic novels, we will discuss: truth, falsehood, and representation; authorial point of view; attempts at objectivity and clarifying subjectivity; writing about family, living subjects, and marginalized communities. Students may be exposed to other ethics-related issues, such as libel, confidentiality, and consent.

BAM 70500-01: Race, Gender & the Art of Memoir
3 credits, Tuesdays, 6:30PM – 8:30PM, Hybrid
Professor Tanisha Ford
Class number 40984

In recent years, there has been resurgent interest in the genre of memoir. Many of these contemporary texts are written by young(er), people of color. In this course we will read classic memoirs in conversation with more recent publications to explore the intersections of gender and race and the unique ways that writers of creative non-fiction use the genre to explore identity politics, trauma, pleasure, the (recent) past, and worldmaking. Learning how to write in this style is a useful skill for all students—regardless of field, discipline or career path. To that end, students will write and revise several autobiographical essays, with attention to developing voice and tone, pacing, and social/cultural/political texture. Registration open only to M.A. Program in Biography and Memoir students.

BAM 70500-02: What We Can't Understand: Writing Enslaved Lives
3 credits, Wednesdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Fully In-Person
Professor Marc Dolan
Class number 40983

fall_2022_dolan_syllabus.pdf

 This course will examine how life writers have attempted to convey the unconveyable by considering varying instances of a single genre: writing about enslaved lives. We will begin by reading Frederick Douglass’ three autobiographies (A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, My Bondage and My Freedom, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass) to see how one writer conveyed his life in three different ways at three different points in his own lifetime.  We will follow that with David Blight’s recent Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, which attempts to convey that same life biographically for a 21st-century audience.  We will then consider the intervention of oral history techniques into this topic during the 1930s, with selections from the WPA’s collected Slave Narratives and Zora Neale Hurston’s recently recovered Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”.  This will be followed by an intersection of contemporary memoir with the history of slavery (Saidya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route) as well as a more recent attempt to reconstruct barely documented lives (Marisa J. Fuentes’ Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive).  Finally, we will consider biographies of enslaved people cast in other media, including graphic literature (Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner) and film (Andrea Kalin and Bill Duke’s Prince among Slaves and John Ridley and Steve McQueen’s cinematic adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave). In this course, we will primarily be considering questions of research, writing, and reception.  Consequently, our membership should by no means be limited to those who study the pre-21st-century US.  Our discussions should benefit and will benefit from the presence of all manner of memoirists, biographers, literary critics, historians, and sundry committed writers in the room

BAM 70500-03:  The Challenges and Rewards of Group Biography
Tuesdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Hybrid
Professor Katherine Culkin
Class number 40982

fall_2022_70500_culkin_syllabus.pdf

Exploring the lives of more than one person in a single volume provides challenges and rewards to a biographer. An author must keep track of separate timelines in a single narrative and find ways to balance the life stories of more than one subject, giving each its fair due. But the format also offers dynamic ways to explore relationships and integrate varied perspectives. In this course we will read group biographies that center a wide range of relationships, including those among siblings, parents and children, committed couples, friends, business partners, and creative communities. We will explore the strategies, structures, and research techniques biographers use to create compelling, coherent narratives about multiple lives. For their final projects, students can choose to research and write a portion of a group biography of their own or write a scholarly analysis of a selection of group biographies by others.

 

COURSES FROM OTHER PROGRAMS

FREN 87000.  On Passions, Emotions, Affects: in Theory, History, Texts
2/3/4 credits, Tuesdays 4:15pm-6:15pm, in person
Professor Domna Stanton
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 3 credit option)

How are passions and emotions different from affects? How do bodies perform passions, feelings, emotions, sensibilities and affects?  What do affects do and how do they do it? How are they shaped by their contexts? Which emotions mobilize spectators/readers into collectives/communities? Are passions both a source and an obstacle to struggles for freedom and justice? How do they include and exclude? What is affect’s relation to reason or rationality?  What is the significance of the “affective turn”?  How is this turn connected to studies of women, to queerness and to work on gender and racial embodiments and sexualities? In addressing these questions, our course will be structured around three areas: First, theories of affect (in Ahmed, Artaud, Berlant, Brinkema,  Butler,  Cvetkovich, Deleuze and Guattari,  Flatley, Massumi, Puar, Sedgwick, Seigworth  & Gregg,  and Williams). Second, a (partial) history of emotions from Aristotle  and theater to Artaud, Racine and Beckett; the Middle Ages (Augustine  and Kempe); early modernism (Montaigne, Equiano, Descartes, Spinoza and Sévigné );  modernism and melancholy (Rousseau, Freud, H. James, Proust, V. Woolf); and trauma and its aftermaths (Caruth, Felman, P. Levi, Lanzman).  Third, the politics and ethics of specific affects: disgust and shame; anger and compassion (Ngai, Probyn, Fisher, Lorde).  In analyzing these writers’s texts, we will consider the ways in which they inscribe emotional content and generate affective responses from readers even when their semantics and narratives do not depict strong emotions. Indeed, do feelings as responses to cultural forms differ from human emotions?

Biography and Memoir Courses

BAM 70300 - Approaches to Life-Writing
Annalyn Swan - annalyn.swan@gmail.com 

Wednesdays, 6:30 -8:30 PM
Room 5382
Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (2nd century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. Approaches to Life Writing will be an exploration of the art and craft of the genre. What do great biographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography, or a “definitive” account? From biography as gossipy inside edition (Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson), to biography as irreverent debunking (Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians), to contemporary biography and memoir, we will explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet,” as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it. For those who wish to do so, this is also a course about practicing the art ourselves. For the final paper, in lieu of a more conventional essay, students will have the opportunity to write an autobiographical chapter, or else research and write a chapter of a biography.
Approaches to Life-Writing Syllabus

 
BAM 70200 – Research and Methodology
Katherine Culkin - Katherine.Culkin@bcc.cuny.edu

Mondays, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Room 6421
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.
BAM-Research-and-Methodolgy-Spring-2022

 
BAM 70500 – Global Autobiography
Harold Veeser - hveeser@ccny.cuny.edu
Thursdays, 6:30 -8:30 PM
Room 5417
Memoir and autobiography as practiced beyond U.S. and European borders often depart from the metropolitan norm. Like novels, memoirs can no longer be seen, myopically, as Western forms. But particular questions arise concerning global self-writing, including the issue of writing in the conqueror’s tongue, the relationship between memoir and less-familiar models for self-representation, and special problems of self-fashioning in a de-colonial situation. The author interview has mediated, to some extent, the shaping of autobiographical subjectivity and thus offers a convenient point of entry. We will read interviews with contemporary South Asian writers including Suneeta Peres da Costa, Sulari Gentill, Tabish Khair, Karthika Naïr, and Sehba Sarwar. Examples of memoir proper will be taken from Nigeria, East Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Cairo, Jerusalem, Goa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Calabria, and Iran. Displaced and hybrid autobiographical narratives also have their place in the syllabus: a Californian whose parents were interned Japanese, a Nigerian redeployed to London, an Egyptian displaced to Amherst, Mass., a Damascene relocated in Ramallah. Attention will be given to interventions by CUNY GC professors such as André Aciman, Ammiel Alcalay, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Nancy Miller. Other theories of autobiography to be discussed are those of Bart Moore-Gilbert, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Sidonie Smith, Michelle Hartman, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Una Chaudhuri, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Writing prompts will play a part in most class sessions and Zoom meetings. The final project can be either a critical essay or something more closely resembling memoir and autobiography.

 
BAM 70500 –  The Essay Film
Wayne Koestenbaum - wkoestenbaum@gmail.com
Wednesdays, 4:15 - 6:15 PM
Instructor permission is required to enroll in this course.
Room 6417

In this seminar, we will explore portraits and self-portraits that might be called “essay films.” A perplexing category; a fruitful category; a pretext for flight, for immersion, and for an end to naysaying. Critic Tim Corrigan argues that “although for many the notion of an essay film remains less than self-explanatory, this particular mode of filmmaking has become more and more recognized as not only a distinctive kind of filmmaking but also, I would insist, as the most vibrant and significant kind of filmmaking in the world today.” (Corrigan, The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker, Oxford U. Press, 2011). Some of the films we will study resemble paintings; some resemble monologues, stand-up comedy, intimate encounters, documentaries, surveillance footage, collage. All do the work that is historically the province of the literary genres of autobiography and biography, and the visual media of photography, drawing, and collage. Artists studied may include such unclassifiables as Agnès Varda, Shirley Clarke, Isaac Julien, Werner Herzog, Jonas Mekas, Ja’Tovia Gary, Andy Warhol, Peggy Ahwesh, Tourmaline, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Su Friedrich, Kalup Linzy, Chantal Akerman, Barbara Hammer, Cheryl Dunye, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Sky Hopinka, William Greaves, Albert and David Maysles, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Suggestions welcome. We will read some theoretical texts: Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, André Bazin, Alexandre Astruc, Hito Steyerl, and others. For a final project, students may write a work of biography or autobiography, make a short film, or write a critical essay. Instructor’s permission required to register.
The Essay Film Syllabus


BAM 72000 – Writing Workshop for Thesis or Capstone Project
Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits
Sarah Covington - Sarah.Covington@Qc.cuny.edu
Room 5114.01

This is a hands-on research and writing seminar open to BAM students who are beginning to work on their thesis or capstone project. The course is designed to help students organize and analyze their material, formulate a research question and hypothesis, and design methodologies to structure their theses. Students will also be given a platform in which they can share with the professor and other students an outline and timeline, a critical review of the literature and a working bibliography, and an early draft of the project. In addition to sharing writing and research strategies, students will also sharpen their abilities to offer and receive feedback, and to navigate the sometimes-arduous process of revision. The goal is to offer a structure to students as they embark upon their thesis or capstone, and to position them on their way to working with an advisor and successfully bringing their project to completion. Students who enroll in this course are expected to be in their final or penultimate semester of coursework. Please note that this course can only be taken once. Students who hope to graduate in Spring 2022 should also register for BAM 79000: Thesis/Capstone Project Supervision., unless they have already taken it in a previous semester.
BAM-Thesis-Writing-Seminar

RECOMMENDED COURSES FROM OTHER PROGRAMS

HIST 74300 - Gendered Justice in Europe and the Americas c.1350- 1750
Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00 pm, 3 credits
Prof. Sara McDougall 

Room 9205
The course will explore the role of gender in the prosecution and punishment of crime in social and cultural context in Europe and the Americas c.1350-1750. We will examine gender and justice as it intersected with race, religion, and status, as found in the Atlantic World, and particularly the French and Iberian metropoles and colonies. Our main body of evidence will be trial records, including litigation, witness testimony, confessions, and sentences. In addition we will engage with a range of other source materials such as law codes, prison records and the writings of incarcerated persons, newspaper reports, true crime narratives, and images of alleged criminals and crime. Training in these subjects welcome but not a requirement, this will be an interdisciplinary inquiry open to graduate and professional students in the humanities and social sciences and related fields.
Gender-Justice-Syllabus_1

HIST 72800- Twentieth Century American Foundations
Mondays, 6:30-8:30 pm, 3 credits 
Prof. Kathleen McCarthy - 
KMcCarthy@gc.cuny.edu
Room 6494
This course is designed to teach students interested in Public History to do historically-based program reviews for institutional decision making, with a focus on grantmaking foundations. It will include scholarly and archival readings keyed to the students’ topics, discussions about their research, and presentations by foundation practioners to provide insights into how the big foundations work and the rationales behind their programs.The course requirement is a 10-15 page paper based on original research in the foundation collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center [RAC] in Pocantico, Hills, NY, which houses the historical records of the Rockefeller, Ford, Russell Sage, Henry Luce, William and Flora Hewlett, Near East and Markle Foundations, and the Commonwealth and Rockefeller Brothers Funds (among many other materials). These materials cover a broad swath of U.S. and global history, from women’s, minority, and other social justice campaigns, to the colonial devolution; scientific, agricultural, and social science research; and public health, the arts and humanities in the United States and around the world. Many of these collections have not previously been used, offering an important opportunity for original research. Information about the Archive Center’s holdings, including finding aids available at https://rockarch.org/.  Prospective students are strongly advised to consult the Archive Center’s online finding aids and to contact reference staff to ensure that the available manuscript collections are sufficiently rich for the topic they plan to study. They will also have an opportunity to apply for a limited number of grants to work with RAC staff  to disseminate their research findings to the general public through digital publishing and/or other RAC projects. Their papers may also be suitable for scholarly publications and presentations afterwards. Instructor permission is required to enroll in this course. 
Foundation-Syllabus-22-Final_1

SPAN 87100 - Transpacific Encounters
Wednesday, 6:30 - 8:30 pm., 3 credits
Prof. Araceli Tinajero  

This course will analyze Oriental representations in Peninsular and Latin American literature and in the Portuguese-speaking world. Students will read stories, poems, essays, book chapters, and travel stories to understand diverse approximations to the cultures of the Middle and Far East. We will read full texts or passages from Cervantes, Balbuena, Fernández de Lizardi, Eça de Queirós, Machado, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Darío, Gómez Carrillo, Tablada Malba Tahan, Borges, Paz, Lolita Bosch, Roberto Bolaño and Alberto Olmos. Students Will also benefit from the opportunity to see a movie and to appreciate Orientalist-themed artwork. A wide bibliography will be available so that students can research and prepare a final paper or produce a creative piece (in Spanish, English or Portuguese) related to a work not read as part of the class.

ENGL 78000. 20th and 21st-century Women Writers and Intellectuals: Genre, Style, Nation. 
Thursdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, 3 credits
Prof. Nancy K. Miller (Cross-listed with WSCP 81000)

Virginia Woolf’s anti-war essay “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” was published in 1940, months before the author’s death in 1941. Beginning here, and with the death of this author, we will explore the work of British, French, and American women writers who produced memoir, essays, novels, and poetry from the war years through the advent of second-wave feminism and into the 21st century. Cultural figures and icons, these writers also have played important roles in public debate: Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Adrienne Rich, Jacqueline Rose, Susan Sontag, Simone Weil, and Virginia Woolf. Of critical interest to the seminar will be questions of gender, personality, and authority. Whose first-person matters, when, and how?

 

Biography and Memoir Courses

BAM 70100: Forms of Life Writing
3 credits, Tuesdays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Professor Brenda Wineapple
Hybrid - For more information about in person dates, write to bwineapple@earthlink.net
Room 5383

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.
Email bwineapple@earthlink.net for draft syllabus
 
BAM 70400: Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir
3 credits, Mondays, 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Professor Ava Chin
Fully online
This course explores the range of ethical issues that pertain to memoir and biography, and investigates how writers and authors approach them. Utilizing a variety of texts, including nonfiction graphic novels, we will discuss: truth, falsehood, and representation; authorial point of view; attempts at objectivity and clarifying subjectivity; writing about family, living subjects, and marginalized communities. Students may be exposed to other ethics-related issues, such as libel, confidentiality, and consent.
EthicsSyllabus-Fall-2021

 
BAM 70500: Multi-genre creative writing as a path to memoir
3 credits, Wednesdays, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Professor Bridgett Davis
Hybrid - For more information about in person dates, write to bridgett.davis@gmail.com
​Room 6496

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.
Draft syllabus here


 
BAM 70500: Case Histories: patient and physician narratives of self and disease 
3 credits, Wednesdays 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM, Professor Allison Kavey
Fully online
Syllabus: case-histories-fall-2021_1

 Disease is the great equalizer.  We will all be patients eventually.  But who are we to the physicians who encounter our pathological selves, who are we to ourselves, and who are doctors under those white coats?  This class endeavors to use disease as a common ground to discuss case histories as autobiographical and biographical tools.  We will read physician memoirs to better understand how they imagine themselves as people and professionals, and how they relate to their oddly narrative art--the act of writing is embedded in medical practice through case notes.  We will read patient memoirs and think about the nature of pain, the ways in which disease shapes us and how we resist its warping, and think about the person behind the case histories.  In short, this is a course that looks through both sides of the patient-physician mirror to try to grasp some very human truths.           
 

RECOMMENDED COURSES FROM OTHER PROGRAMS


ENGL 78000.  Post / Modern Memoir
4 Credits, Thursdays 4:15PM – 6:15PM, Professor Nancy Miller
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
“I do not know how far I differ from other people,” Virginia Woolf remarks in Moments of Being, thus summarizing the memoirist’s dilemma. In this course we will explore strategies of self-representation in the works of twentieth and twenty-first century writers and artists, for whom questions of identity have led to experiments in form. Readings include works by Lynda Barry, Roland Barthes, Alison Bechdel, Teresa Cha, Nan Goldin, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxine Hong Kingston, Maggie Nelson, Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf. 
Weekly responses, in-class presentations, and a final paper, which may be a creative exercise.
 
FREN 70500: Writing the Self: From Augustine to Covidity
4 credits,
Tuesdays 4:15pm-6:15pm, Professor Domna Stanton
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Taught in English

How is the self written, constructed? What forms and shapes does this writing take over time, in different genres? what purposes does it serve, what work does it accomplish for the several selves inscribed in the text and for others (including the self) who will read it? This course will begin by tracing self-writing from the Middle Ages to today, in theoretical texts (Derrida, Butler, Lacan, Lejeune), and primary works, beginning with confession (St Augustine, Rousseau); then early-modern discursive forms of interiority (Gentileschi, Sévigné) that steadily enlarge both the scope of self writing and the figures of the self. We will consider the centuries that women's autogynography and the self-writing of persons of color and other others took to be recognized -- from Kempe, Heloise and Pisan to slave narratives (Equiano, Jacobs, Douglass), and letters, diaries and journals (Woolf, Nin, de Beauvoir). Our readings will culminate with the proliferation of forms in the 20th- and 21st century: from autofiction (Colette, Stein, Eggers) and pictorial modes (Leonard, Bourgeois, Abramovic); Holocaust memorials, trauma narratives (Frank, Levi, Agamben) and testimonials (Manchu); to AIDS memoirs (Arenas, Guibert), the matter of black lives (Cullors, Kendi and Blain), and the global pandemic that engender terror and dying along with possible transformation and rebirth. Finally, given the untraceable lines between the ‘real’ and ‘the fictive,’ we will end by debating whether all writing is self-writing.
 
ENGL 89000.  Mining the Archives, Reinterpreting the Past. 
4 Credits, Wednesdays 2:00PM – 4:00PM, Professor David Reynolds
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Fully online

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. If Covid permits, 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.

Biography and Memoir Courses

BAM 70300 - Approaches to Life-Writing
Mondays, 6:30-8:30 pm, Room 4419, 3 credits
Annalyn Swan
Class number 54909
Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (2nd century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. Approaches to Life Writing will be an exploration of the art and craft of the genre. What do great biographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography, or a “definitive” account?  From biography as gossipy inside edition (Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson), to biography as irreverent debunking (Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians), to contemporary biography and memoir, we will explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet,” as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it. For those who wish to do so, this is also a course about practicing the art ourselves. For the final paper, in lieu of a more conventional essay, students will have the opportunity to write an autobiographical chapter, or else research and write a chapter of a biography.

BAM 70200 – Research and Methodology
Tuesdays, 6:30 -8:30 PM, 3 credits
Katherine Culkin
Class number 54908
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.

BAM 70500 - 20th Century Lives on the Road to Peace and Freedom
Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 pm, 3 credits
Blanche Wiesen Cook
Class number 54911
This biography/memoir seminar will explore the work of writers, visionaries, activists whose contributions we most need now.  This is a participatory class, which will emphasize student interests and enthusiasms.  Below is an introductory list, from which weekly readings and volumes for individual review may be drawn.  Students are encouraged to suggest additional and alternative readings.  Requirements:  Each student will be responsible for an introductory essay-memoir, five book reports a final research paper.
Book list here.

BAM 72000 – Writing Workshop for Thesis or Capstone Project
Thursdays, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits
Sarah Covington
Class number 54912
This is a hands-on research and writing seminar open to  BAM students who are beginning to work on their thesis or capstone project. The course is designed to help students organize and analyze their material, formulate a research question and hypothesis, and design methodologies to structure their theses. Students will also be given a platform in which they can share with the professor and other students an outline and timeline, a critical review of the literature and a working bibliography, and an early draft of the project. In addition to sharing writing and research strategies, students will also sharpen their abilities to offer and receive feedback, and to navigate the sometimes-arduous process of revision. The goal is to offer a structure to students as they embark upon their thesis or capstone, and to position them on their way to working with an advisor and successfully bringing their project to completion. Students who enroll in this course are expected to be in their final or penultimate semester of coursework. Please note that this course can only be taken once. Students who hope to graduate in Spring 2021 ideally should also register for BAM 79000: Thesis/Capstone Project Supervision. They may also take BAM 79000 after this course, but not before. Interested students should write to Program Director Sarah Covington (Sarah.Covington@qc.cuny.edu), cc’ing APO Marilyn Weber (mweber@gc.cuny.edu).
Syllabus here 

BAM 79000 - Thesis / Capstone Project Supervision
3 credits
Advisors TBD
Class number TBD
Students finish their BAM by working with an advisor write a thesis OR to complete a capstone project.  The adviser must be a Graduate Center faculty member who is interested in the proposed thesis project. They do not need to be faculty members within the BAM Program. Regardless of when a student begins work on his or her thesis, the thesis course is registered for only once, in the student’s final term. Please write to Program Director Sarah Covington (Sarah.Covington@qc.cuny.edu) and APO Marilyn Weber (mweber@gc.cuny.edu) if you are interested in this for the Spring.

Recommended Courses from other programs

FREN 77400 - Women’s Stories in Premodern French              
Tuesdays, 4:15pm - 6:15pm,
2/4 credits 
(Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Prof. Sara McDougall   
Class number 58677                                
In the premodern era, French language and culture spread far and wide beyond the borders of "l'hexagone". This course will explore French stories told to, for, about, and by women between 1100 and 1700. These texts document the words and deeds of both real and imagined women, famous and infamous, and also women who history has forgotten. Our sources will include romances, poetry, plays, letters, trial records, medical and legal treatises, conduct literature, and illuminated manuscripts (the premodern version of the graphic novel). We will work from translations as well as the original, according to and accommodating the skillsets and interests of each student. Knowledge of French helpful but not in the least essential.

Comp Lit 85000- Marcel Proust: In Search of Lost Time
Tuesdays; 4:15pm-6:15pm
2/4 credits (Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Professor André Aciman
Class number 58280

Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time tells of an elaborate, internal journey, at the end of which the narrator joyfully discovers the unifying pattern of his life both as writer and human being. Famed for its style and its distinctive view of love, art, and memory, Proust’s epic remains a dominant and innovative voice in the literature of intimacy and introspection.  This seminar, designed for students who wish to understand the complex relationship between memory and the modern novel will examine how Proust’s epic had challenged and redefined not just the art of writing, but the art of reading as well.  The course will be taught in translation, but students able to read French are encouraged to read Proust in the original.

ENGL 87500. Memoir/Illness/Graphic/Grief
Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM.
2/4 credits
 (Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Nancy K. Miller
Class number 54655

“Considering how common illness is,” Virginia Woolf writes in On Being Ill, “how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings,…it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.” Contemporary nonfiction and fiction have long since belied Woolf’s 1926 lament. The theme of illness occupies a prominent place in postwar culture, and the seminar will explore its many variations through a wide range of literary and visual representations of bodily and mental suffering, including cancer, AIDS, depression and mourning. We will also map the social and political contexts of illness, in particular through collective research on the national experience and discourses of Covid-19. What have we learned about healthcare and how does the pandemic reframe our understanding of the sick and the well, and the meaning of recovery? It’s too soon to predict the forms this experiment in collaborative criticism will take. 

Among the writers and artists: Elizabeth Alexander, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Audre Lorde, Eve Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, Tolstoy, and Woolf; graphic narratives by Bobby Baker, Anne Carson, David B., Miriam Engelberg, Ellen Forney, and David Small. 

ENGL 75000 - American Renaissance
​David Reynolds
Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM.
2/4 credits. (Please note: BAM students must register for the 4 credit option)
Class number 54608

Known as the American Renaissance, the decades leading up to the Civil War are generally regarded not only as the peak moment in American cultural expression but also as a watershed of themes reaching back to ancient and early-modern periods and looking forward to modernism.  The American Renaissance saw the innovations in philosophy, ecological awareness, and style on the part of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; the metaphysical depth and cultural breadth represented by the fiction of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne; the poetic experimentation of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; the psychological probing and ground-breaking aesthetics of Edgar Allan Poe; and landmark portraits of race and slavery by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass. Urban life and class conflict were dramatized in fiction by George Lippard, and gender issues were vivified in writings by Margaret Fuller and Sara Parton. Lincoln’s speeches crystalized the nation’s enduring political themes. In addition to reading central works of American literature—among them Moby-Dick, “Bartleby,” Incidents in the Life of a Slave GirlThe Scarlet Letter,  Leaves of Grass, Walden, Poe’s tales, Emerson’s essays, and Dickinson’s poems--we discuss current approaches to American Studies, criticism, and cultural history. 

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.
Syllabus - Forms-of-Life-Writing-SYLLABUS-2020

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.
Syllabus - The-Ethics-of-Public-Biography

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.
Syllabus - BAMMemoirWorkshopFall-20-Davis

Recommended 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?
BhagavanBiographIntlHistPrelimSyll_2

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. 

Biography and Memoir Courses

BAM 70300 - Approaches to Life-Writing
Mondays, 6:30-8:30 pm, Room 4419, 3 credits, 
 Annalyn Swan  
Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (2nd century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. Approaches to Life Writing will be an exploration of the art and craft of the genre. What do great biographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography, or a “definitive” account?  From biography as gossipy inside edition (Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson), to biography as irreverent debunking (Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians), to contemporary biography and memoir, we will explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet,” as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it.
For those who wish to do so, this is also a course about practicing the art ourselves. For the final paper, in lieu of a more conventional essay, students will have the opportunity to write an autobiographical chapter, or else research and write a chapter of a biography.
 AS-Books-for-Spring-2020-Life-writing-course

BAM 70400 - Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir
Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 pm, Room 6421, 3 credits, Sarah Covington  
This course will explore the ethical problems that attend life writing or other forms such as oral history, studying how practitioners have dealt with these matters. Utilizing texts which may include case studies, students will discuss and write about such issues as truth and falsehood; withholding or exposing information; respecting the confidentiality or privacy of others; or writing about marginal or vulnerable populations. Students will also be exposed to the other ethics-related issues, such as plagiarism, libel, copyright infringement, the requirements of the Institutional Review Board, fair-use quotation and the consent of vulnerable subjects.
Ethics-Syllabus

BAM 70500 - Race, Gender, and the Art of Memoir
Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15 pm, Room 3307, 3 credits, Tanisha Ford 
In recent years, there has been resurgent interest in the genre of memoir. Many of these contemporary texts are written by young(er), people of color. In this course we will read classic memoirs in conversation with more recent publications to explore the intersections of gender and race and the unique ways that writers of creative non-fiction use the genre to explore identity politics, trauma, pleasure, the (recent) past, and worldmaking. Learning how to write in this style is a useful skill for all students—regardless of field, discipline or career path. To that end, students will write and revise several autobiographical essays, with attention to developing voice and tone, pacing, and social/cultural/political texture.
This course is NOT open to non-degree students.
Registration open only to M.A. Program in Biography and Memoir and PhD Program in History students.
BAM70500-Race-Gender-Memoir

Recommended Courses from Other Programs

ENGL 87500 - Modernism and Memoir
Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. Room TBA, 4 credits, Prof. Marc Dolan
Based in an exploration of the consciousness of individual experience, transatlantic Modernism both sprang from autobiography and in turn transformed it, in its own formally fragmented image.  Contemporaneous and current theories of autobiography and memoir will be assigned in tandem with our primary texts, which may include: Andre Gide, If I Die (Si le grain ne meurt) [1926]; Djuna Barnes, Ladies’ Almanack (1928); Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933); Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography (1937); Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse (1938); Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (1940); Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York (Poeta en Nueva York) (1940); The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams  (1951); H. D., Tribute to Freud (1956); Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964; 2009); Edward Dahlberg, Because I Was Flesh (1964); and Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio: From the Thirties (1974)

ENGL 75000. David Reynolds. American Renaissance. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits.
Known as the American Renaissance, the decades leading up to the Civil War are generally regarded not only as the peak moment in American cultural expression but also as a watershed of themes reaching back to ancient and early-modern periods and looking forward to modernism.  The American Renaissance saw the innovations in philosophy, ecological awareness, and style on the part of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; the metaphysical depth and cultural breadth represented by the fiction of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne; the poetic experimentation of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; the psychological probing and ground-breaking aesthetics of Edgar Allan Poe; and landmark portraits of race and slavery by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass. Urban life and class conflict were dramatized in fiction by George Lippard, and gender issues were vivified in writings by Margaret Fuller and Sara Parton. Lincoln’s speeches crystalized the nation’s enduring political themes. In addition to reading central works of American literature—among them Moby-Dick, “Bartleby,” Incidents in the Life of a Slave GirlThe Scarlet Letter,  Leaves of GrassWalden, Poe’s tales, Emerson’s essays, and Dickinson’s poems--we discuss current approaches to American Studies, criticism, and cultural history 

Comp Lit 78200 – Fictions of the Psyche
GC: TUES, 4:15PM-6:15PM, 4 Credits, Prof. André Aciman
With its intricate and beguiling analysis of human motivation, psychological fiction has a long history and is known for its penetrating focus on desire, deceit and tangled web of human emotions.  The course seeks to examine how literature has portrayed the psyche, how it narrates interiority, and how language seeks to unravel the paradoxes implicit to any treatment of love. The course will also establish a typology of the genre and a vocabulary with which to investigate what the French call the roman d'analyse. Readings will include Ovid, Tristan, Boccaccio, Marguerite de Navarre, LaFayette, Cervantes, Sterne, Austen, Stendhal, Wharton, Svevo, and Proust.

Hist. 79200- Jews and the Left
GC: Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Elissa Bemporad
This course will explore the historical involvement of Jewish men and women in the political left from the French Revolution to the contemporary world, in Europe, America and Palestine/Israel. By discussing the political and ideological factors that attracted Jews to leftist political movements over time and in different geopolitical contexts, the course will study the ambivalent relationship between universalism and particularism that lied at the heart of these movements. Through a diverse selection of readings, which include memoirs, letters, fiction, press articles, and monographs, students will also be asked to disentangle facts from myth, as they ponder the reality and the limits of the Jewish alliance with the Left. This course will also explore the ways in which, at different times and in different places, the association between Jews and the Left have become a common thread in antisemitic thinking.

French 87000 - On Passions, Emotions, Affects: In Theory, History, Texts
Tuesdays, 4:15PM-6:15PM, Room TBA, 4 Credits, Prof. Domna Stanton 
How are passions and emotions different from affects? How do bodies perform passions, sensibility, feelings, emotions and affects? What do affects do and how do they do it? How are they shaped by their contexts?  What is the meaning and significance of the “affective turn”?  Does it mark a rejection of the idea(l) of rational self-control? How is this turn connected to studies of women (and the feminine) and to work on gender and racial embodiments and sexualities? This course will be structured around three areas:
First, theories of affect and in tandem, a study of the cultural politics and ethics of specific affects, including anger, disgust, shame, compassion and happiness. Which emotions mobilize spectators/readers into collectives/communities. Are passions both a source and an obstacle to struggles for freedom and justice? How do they include and exclude? Among the theorists: Ahmed, Artaud, Berlant, Clough,  Cvetkovich, Deleuze and Guattari, Ghandi, M. Hardt, A. Lorde, Massumi, Scheer, Sedgwick, Stewart, M. Warner.
Second, we will grapple with the treatment of passions and emotions through history, especially in philosophy: from Aristotle and Cicero, Descartes, Pascal, Lebrun, Spinoza, and Kant to Darwin, W. James, Freud, Klein, and R. Williams.
And third, in conjunction with this philosophical and historical work, we will read texts (verbal, visual and musical) to see how they inscribe emotional content and how they generate affective responses from readers even when their semantics and narratives do not depict strong emotions. Is feeling as a response to cultural forms different from a human emotion? We will consider the cultural politics of emotion in the work of  Margerie of Kempe, Montaigne,  Gentileschi (Portraits of Judith) , Racine (Phedre),  Goethe (Sorrows of Young Werther), Wagner (“Leibestod”) , H. Jacobs (Life of a Slave Girl), H. James (Beast in the Jungle),  Woolf  (Mrs. Dalloway) , A. Nin (“Incest” Diary),  Lanzman (Shoah),  Beckett (Happy Days), C. Churchill  (Far Away) , Irigaray (“When our Lips Speak Together”), Morrison (Beloved),  Darwish (Poems),  Labaki (Capernaum), Moore (Watchman, 2019).

MALS 73200 - American Social Institutions
Thursdays, 4:15 – 6:15 pm, Room TBA, 3 Credits, Prof. David Humphries 
In this course, we will examine how American Studies approaches social institutions and is in turned shaped by its own institutional settings. In order to present a broad range of questions, keywords, and topics for further inquiry, the course is organized around different units, each of which includes one or more prominent books as well as recent articles from American Quarterly and other contemporary journals that present a variety of methodologies and theoretical frameworks. We will begin by examining the relationship between nationalism and national borders, using Daniel Immerwahr’s recent book How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States as our starting point. Following Cornell West’s lead, we will read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness as a means of reexamining other efforts to shed light on institutionalized racism and promote racial justice. Following a similar approach, we will revisit Michael Harrington’s classic The Other America: Poverty in the United States as a way of reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, responses to it, and the continued media interest in “middle America” and those “left behind” following the 2016 elections. We will then consider how genre and questions of form often can be seen as being grounded in social institutions. After reviewing how popular musical genres grew out of conceptions of race and geography and considering how recent artists like k.d. lang, Janelle Monáe, and Lil Nas X have reimagined these genres through their music and performances, we will turn our attention to two spy novels by Asian American writers, Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker and Leonard Chang’s Over the Shoulder. Finally, we will look at how universities function as social institutions in relation to other cultural and economic trends, using John Marx and Mark Garrett Cooper’s Media U: How the Need to Win Audiences Has Shaped Higher Education and Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy. Writing for the course will take place throughout the term in a workshop setting and will include a book review, a conference proposal, an annotated bibliography, and a final paper and reflection piece; students more advanced in their research will have the opportunity to structure their writing in ways that contribute to their work on their thesis.

Biography and Memoir Courses

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.
Forms-of-Life-Writing-SYLLABUS-2019_2

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 - https://bamfall19.commons.gc.cuny.edu/ 
BAM-70200-fall-19__1

Recommended Courses from Other Programs

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.
Syllabus-Warriors-against-Slavery-Lincoln-Brown-Douglass

FSCP 81000 - The Biographical Film: Editing a Life
Thursday, 4:15-7:15 PM, Room C419, Marc Dolan (fozzielogic1530@gmail.com)
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.   
BioFilmSyll

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.
Mothers-in-Law-Syllabus-v-Sept5_1

Person writing with pen on paper

Professional Development

Non-Credit Course Offerings from The Writing Center

The Writing Center manages a range of non-credit professional development courses designed to help students at the Graduate Center in their careers and professional activities. Regular offerings include courses in academic writing for native and non-native English speakers, advanced spoken English for presentations, and teaching strategies. Additional topics vary by semester.

Browse Course offerings from the Writing Center