ENG32760 Life Writing: Text and Self

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module introduces students to the capacious, various and innovative forms of life writing found in literary history. It takes a chronological approach, providing students with models of auto/bio/self writing from the classics onwards (Plutarch, Augustine). It looks in particular at questions of form and how these are altered and adapted to reflect and articulate new and challenging identities, political positions, or arguments. Students will gain a grounding in various types of life writing (confession, apologia, conversion narrative, redemption narrative, biography etc) and in a range of modes (diaries, letters, biographical entries, graphic novels) as well as considering the impact of life writings – who gets to speak, and how? To whom? What does it mean to use the personal to represent an idea, movement or community? What does life writing mean in a confessional age? Does writing create the self? What is the relationship between subjectivity and truth? We will also explore various types of memoir/auto-writing – nature memoir (Kerri ni Dochartaigh, e.g.), food memoir (Nigel Slater, Grace Dent, e.g.), coming out narrative; family history (John Lanchester, Jeanette Winterson); music memoir (Patti Smith; Keith Richards; Viv Albertine) etc.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

- To gain a good understanding of the key features of life writing and to evaluate these critically
- To analyse the key questions posed by life writing in relation to truth, ethics memory, identity and community
- To engage in independent, primary research relevant to the topics, concepts and ideas discussed in class
- To gain confidence in the identification, evaluation and analysis of primary and secondary research materials
- To develop key drafting and editing skills in the process of writing a high quality, research based essay or reflection

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The primary mode will be in class discussion of each week’s set text, combined with discussion boards to create prompts and talking points. Whilst there is a defined syllabus for each class discussion (designed to ensure historical coverage and that the full diversity of voices is represented), students will be strongly encouraged to contribute texts that matter to them. Delivery methods may include: group work, topic work, wikis and blog posts. Students will work on building up resources on key types of life writing for use in research essays. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Weekly contribution to class discussion boards on Brightspace Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Assignment: Contribution to module keywords document, concept + definition, 250 words maximum and to shared bibliography (one entry_ Varies over the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Assignment: Presentation on individual research topic Week 10 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Essay: Final essay/project, 3000 words using independent research. This may be based on primary original research using, e.g family documents, with reflection and commentary. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Weekly feedback and response to discussion boards; individual feedback on assessment activities (keywords and bibliography); detailed individual feedback on final essay plans. Peer review of plans and drafts.

Name Role
Ms Sarah Cullen Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr Jason O'Toole Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 15:00 - 16:50