Life-Writing: History, Form, Practice (EAS3178)

StaffDr Daisy Hay - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesNone
Co-requisitesNone
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Teaching for this module will be via two 1.5 hour sessions a week: one seminar and one workshop. In seminars we will track the historical development of life-writing from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth-first century, studying the work of Samuel Johnson, Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf and Alexander Masters. In the second half of the module seminars will address different approaches to life-writing and consider more recent developments in biographical form, including group biography and the writing of invisible or neglected lives.

In workshops students will develop their own practice as life-writers. We will chart the different stages involved in the writing of literary non-fiction, focusing in the first section of the module on choosing a subject, organising a project and on research methods. In the second half of the module the workshops will focus on the development of student projects, and on work in progress.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of life-writing, and a critical understanding of some of the key themes, topics and debates that emerge in the texts.
  • 2. demonstrate a capacity to produce a piece of original life-writing, in a manner informed by reading.
  • 3. analyse and critically examine, at an advanced level, diverse forms of life-writing and the devices and perspectives used therein.
  • 4. demonstrate an understanding of how life-writing has developed, historically, from the eighteenth century to the present day.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history.
  • 6. demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.
  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the genre of life-writing, to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical contexts.
  • 8. demonstrate an advanced appreciation of formal techniques and imaginative expression in creative writing.
  • 9. demonstrate an advanced ability to produce pieces of creative writing, in agreement with specified forms and genres.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups.
  • 11. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 12. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 13. through the creative assessment and reflective commentary, to demonstrate the ability to write for a range of audiences (including non-academic audiences).

Syllabus plan

Week: 1

Seminar: Introduction            

Workshop: Starting a Project

Core text: Hermione Lee, Biography: A Very Short Introduction

 

Week: 2

Seminar: Eighteenth Century: Johnson and Savage

Workshop: Finding a Subject

Core text: Samuel Johnson, Life of Mr Richard Savage

 

Week: 3

Seminar: Nineteenth Century: Great Lives

Workshop: Organising a Project

Core text: Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Bronte

 

Week: 4

Seminar: Twentieth Century: Breaking Away

Workshop: Research Methods

Core text: Virginia Woolf, Orlando

 

Part Two: Approaches

Week: 5

Seminar: Twenty-First Century

Workshop: Making the Subject Live

Core text: Alexander Masters, Stuart: A Life Backwards

 

Week: 6

Seminar: Critical Perspectives and Contexts

Workshop: Project outline presentations

Core text: Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

 

Week: 7

Seminar: Writing the Self

Workshop: Project outline presentations

Core text: Versions of ‘I’ anthology (provided)

 

Week: 8

Seminar: Invisible Lives

Workshop: Project outline presentations

Core text: Frances Wilson, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth

 

Part Three: Evolutions

Week: 9

Seminar: Visible Lives

Workshop: Writing work in progress

Core text: Ted Hughes controversy anthology (provided)

 

Week: 10

Seminar: Pairs and Groups

Workshop: Writing work in progress

Core text: Althea Hayter, A Sultry Month

 

Week: 11

Seminar: New Developments in Form

Workshop: Writing Work in Progress

Core text: Sidney Padua, Lovelace and Babbage (extracts provided)

 

 

 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad
332670

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled33seminars and workshops
Guided independent33study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent164reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop presentation on work in progress10 minutes1,3,10In-session feedback with opportunity for tutorial follow up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams
10000

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Piece of original life-writing503000 words2, 5, 8-9, 11-13Feedback Sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Reflective commentary on 3000-word piece; including analysis of audience and market.151000 words1, 3, 8-9, 13Feedback Sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Critical essay on history and genre of life-writing352000 words1, 4-7, 11-12Feedback Sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Piece of original life-writingPiece of original life-writing2, 5, 8-9, 11-12, 13Referral/ Deferral period
Reflective commentary on 3000 word piece; including analysis of audience and market.Reflective commentary on 3000 word piece; including analysis of audience and market.1, 3, 8-9, 13Referral/ Deferral period
Critical essay on history and genre of life-writingCritical essay on history and genre of life-writing1, 4-7, 11-12Referral/ Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

 

Web based and electronic resources:

 

Core Reading

Students should purchase the following core texts: 

 

Hermione Lee, Biography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2009)

Samuel Johnson, The Life of Mr Richard Savage (Harper Perennial, 2011; first published 1744)

Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985)

Frances Wilson, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth (2008)

Alethea Hayter, A Sultry Month (1965)

Alexander Masters, Stuart: A Life Backwards (2006)

 

 

Additional Secondary Reading

 

Richard Holmes, Dr Johnson and Mr Savage (Hodder and Staughton, 1993)

 

Jenny Uglow, Elizabeth Gaskell (Faber and Faber, 1993)

 

Alexandra Harris, Virginia Woolf (Thames and Hudson, 2011)

 

Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Chatto and Windus, 2013)

 

Hermione Lee, Body Parts: Essays on Life-Writing (Chatto and Windus, 2005)

 

John Batchelor, ed., The Art of Literary Biography (Clarendon Press, 1995)

 

Peter France and William St Clair, eds., Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography (Oxford University Press, 2002)

 

 

Module has an active ELE page?

Yes

Available as distance learning?

No

Last revision date

29/01/2016

Key words search

Life-writing; memoir, autobiography, creative writing