University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Modern and Contemporary Memoir (ENLI10390)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will offer students the opportunity to study a genre that has become a major presence in modern and especially contemporary literature, contributing to the expansion of the Department¿s generic coverage in Honours years and our MSc options, and to continuities between the Department's teaching and other activities (the James Tait Black Prize in Biography and a planned Research Group in Life-Writing, as well as the recently launched postgraduate interdisciplinary initiative, 'Connecting Memories'). The course is proposed with the aim of appealing to students of Creative Writing as well as English and Scottish Literature. The politics of representation is a central issue in memoir: the course responds to, and also invites critical reflection on, calls for the diversification of the syllabus (by what criteria, and with what implications, do we designate a text and author as representative of a specific category of subject? How do these designations relate to the memoirists' approaches to the narration of identities - their own and those of others?).
Course description Memoir now occupies a prominent, even dominant, presence in contemporary literature ¿ ¿boom¿, ¿flood¿ and ¿juggernaut¿ are among the recurrent terms in journalistic accounts of the rise of the genre in recent decades. This course explores what may be at stake in the idea of an 'age of memoir' through engaging with some of the most aesthetically and ethically innovative and challenging examples of the genre, from modernist experiments with the form (Woolf, Stein, Nabokov), through memoir as act of historical witness and testimony (Wright, Levi), through to wide-ranging contemporary reformulations of its parameters. Following a broadly chronological trajectory, each session spotlights a specific theme, issue or sub-genre of memoir (such as family history, nature memoir, elegy), inviting inquiry into the memoirist's navigation of self and other in relation to historical and cultural contexts. Recurring questions and topics include:
Forms and theories of memory - psychological, cultural, collective - and their relationship to narrative and representation;
The aesthetics and politics of representation (who is represented, and how - within memoirs and within their reception);
The relations among the self, culture, and narrative (as inflected by gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality) and between individual experience and cultural scripts and generic formulae (origins, crises, turning points, etc.);
The changing cultural-historical contours of the boundaries between the public and the private, and the ethics of writing (and publishing) lives;
The relations between non-fiction and fiction, particularly in terms of genre, and controversies surrounding the boundaries between the 'true' and the 'fake';
The relation between genres (and their relative prominence within cultures) and cultural and historical contexts.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  15
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Other Study Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) 1 hour per week autonomous learning
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Course Essay: 30%«br /»
Exam Essay: 60%«br /»
Course Assessment: 10%
Feedback Detailed written feedback will be provided on each element of assessment, and further oral follow up feedback from the tutor will be available from anybody who would like it.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate their understanding of critical issues in relation to memoir as a crucial site in the production of the modern
  2. Speak and write fluently about these issues in relation to the primary texts, and the social, cultural and historical contexts in which they are embedded
  3. Apply a range of relevant literary theories, such as genre theory, narratology, psychoanalysis, feminist literary criticism, postcolonialism, postmodernism to the primary texts on the course, and evaluate these theories in relation to each other
  4. Reflect constructively on good learning practice
Reading List
Primary Texts
Virginia Woolf, ¿A Sketch of the Past¿ (1939), in Woolf, Moments of Being: Autobiographical Writings, ed. Jeanne Schulkind. London: Pimlico, 2002.
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). London: Penguin, 2001.
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory (1951/1966). London: Penguin, 2000.
Richard Wright, Black Boy (1945). London: Vintage, 2000.
Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982). Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2001.
Primo Levi, If This Is A Man (1958), in Levi, If This Is A Man / The Truce, trans. Stuart Woolf. London: Abacus, 2001.
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (1982). London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines (2012). London: Sort of Books, 2012.
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). London: Harper Perennial, 2006.
W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1995/1998), trans. Michael Hulse. London: Vintage, 2002.

Indicative Secondary Reading
Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (Homo Sacer III). Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. New York: Zone Books, 1999
Anderson, Linda. Autobiography. London: Routledge, 2010.
Aries, Philippe. A History of Private Life: Riddles of Identity in Modern Times (Vol V). Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes. Trans. Richard Howard. London and Basingstoke: Papermac, 1995 (1975).
- - -. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010 (1980).
Birkerts, Sven. The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2007.
Cohen, Josh. The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark. London: Granta, 2014.
Couser, Thomas J. Memoir: An Introduction. New York: OUP, 2012.
- - -. Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
De Mann, Paul. ¿Autobiography as De-facement¿ MLN, Vol. 94, No. 5, Comparative Literature (Dec. 1979): 919-930.
Dever, Maryanne, Sally Newman, and Ann Vickery. The Intimate Archive: Journeys Through Private Papers. National Library of Australia, 2009.
Eakin, Paul John. How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York and London: Routledge, 1992.
Freud, Sigmund. ¿Screen Memories¿ (1899), ¿Family Romances¿ (1909), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth Press.
Gass, William. ¿The Art of Self: Autobiography in the Age of Narcissism.¿ Harper¿s Magazine (May 1994): 43-52.
Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1994.
- - -. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.
Kaplan, Cora and Jenny Bourne Taylor, eds. Reading Life Writing, special issue of new formations: A Journal of Literature/Theory/Politics, London: Lawrence and Wishart) No 67, Summer, 2009.
Leibowitz, Herbert A. Fabricating Lives: Explorations in American Autobiography. New York: Knopf, 1989.
Lejeune, Philippe. ¿The Autobiographical Pact¿, On Autobiography. Trans. Katherine Leary; ed. Paul John Eakin. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989: 3-30.
Marcus, Laura. Auto/biographical Discourses: Criticism, Theory, Practice. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.
Miller, Nancy K. But Enough About Me: Why We Read Other People¿s Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
Morrison, Toni. ¿The Site of Memory¿, Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Ed. William Zinsser. Boston; New York: Houghton. Mifflin, 1995): 83-102.
Olney, James. Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 1998.
Phillips, Adam. ¿Barthes by Himself¿ and ¿Against Biography¿, In Writing: Essays on Literature. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2016.
Radstone, Susannah and Bill Schwartz, eds. Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. New York: Fordham University Press, 2010.
Rak, Julie. ¿Are Memoirs Autobiography? A Consideration of Genre and Public Identity.¿ Genre 36 (Fall / Winter 2004): 305-326.
Ricoeur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting. Trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellaur. London: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Saunders, Max. Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Yagoda, Ben. Memoir: A History. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010.
Yates, Francis A. The Art of Memory. London: The Bodley Head, 2014.
Zinsser, William. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills As an outcome of having studied this course, students will benefit from having developed a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 10 characteristics:
Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their critical understanding of a range of the principal theories and concepts of literary analysis in relation to their reading and discussion of the course material;
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these theories and concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material;
Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practiced identifying, defining, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline;
Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists;
Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
KeywordsMemoir,Auto/biography,Life-writing,Memory,Modern and Contemporary Literature
Course organiserDr Simon Cooke
Tel: (0131 6)51 3996
Course secretaryMs June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information