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Writing the Self: Autobiographical Narratives in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Level 5)


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‘Life-writing’ and ‘self-writing’ are terms which have recently attempted to replace ‘autobiographical writing’ as the label of a genre which has fascinated and infuriated many, owing to its ambivalent relationship with the real, and the philosophical issues it raises with regard to selfhood and identity. Our short course, Writing the Self: Autobiographical Narratives in the 20th and 21st Centuries, will attempt to explore these issues through examining a number of key autobiographical texts by writers spanning the second half of the twentieth century, in chronological order:

  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots
  • Nathalie Sarraute, Enfance
  • Georges Perec, W ou le souvenir d’enfance
  • Annie Ernaux, La Honte

We will explore how the self - or a self - is constructed in each of these texts, the relationship between the structure and the genre in each case, and what kind of self emerges from each of these attempts by a ‘self’ at writing a ‘self’.

This course will be taught primarily in English, but the primary texts can be read in French. Essays may be written in French or in English, but no particular credit will be given for writing in either language.

Assessment is via a 1500-word essay (60%) and a one-hour 20-minute in-class test (40%).

This can be taken as a standalone short course or as a part of:

15 credits at level 5

  • Entry requirements

    Entry requirements

    Most of our short courses have no formal entry requirements and are open to all students.

    This short course has no prerequisites.

    As part of the enrolment process, you may be required to submit a copy of a suitable form of ID.

    International students who wish to come to the UK to study a short course can apply for a Visitor visa. Please note that it is not possible to obtain a Student visa to study a short course.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You enrol directly onto the classes you would like to take, using the Enrol Now link below. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis - so apply early. If you wish to take more than one short course, you can select each one separately and then enrol onto them together via our online application portal. There is usually no formal selection process, although some modules may have prerequisites and/or other requirements, which will be specified where relevant.