ENGL 301 B1: Social and Cultural History of Genre

J. Rak

In this course, we will study life writing, a field that looks at nonfictional texts like memoir, biography or even automedia, the representation of the self online. We will begin with the development of autobiography from its early beginnings in religious confession and move to contemporary developments, including the "new" biography, Indigenous life writing, online life writing, autobiographical film, and more. Issues we explore will include: genre and popular writing; the "culture of confession" and autobiography; Canadian and Indigenous autobiography; the explosion of autobiographical comics; trauma and testimony; and digital life narrative.


Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Fred Wah, Diamond Grill

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

David Small, Stitches

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Mini Aodla Freeman, Life Among the Qallunaat

Patti Smith, Just Kids


Sarah Polley, The Stories We Tell