Life Writing

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Life Writing

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Creative Writing, Literature

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Students must have participated in Literary Theory (L_ELBALES101).

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Objective

    At the end of the course students will understand and be able to write
    on key themes and theories that underpin the genre of literature we call
    Life Writing. They will have learned new vocabulary and methodologies
    found in Life Writing studies and be able to critically discuss the
    relationship between culture and power that is expressed in many life
    narratives. Students will be able to use the course tools to reflect on
    selected texts.

    Course Content

    On this course we shall look at ways in which Life Writing is related to
    recent shifts in the ways in which we read Literature and how we
    approach Literary Studies. In this introductory course we aim to re-
    examine what we mean when we discuss the ‘literary text’ and make new
    connections with more encompassing notions of ‘narrative and story
    telling’ that are not only the basis of all traditional literary text,
    but also inform, shape and underpin the production of life writing,
    autobiography, biography and other forms of personal narrative that are
    to be found in poetry, prose and graphic novels. By broadening the scope
    of literary material to include these personal forms of ‘narrative and
    storytelling’ we will begin to examine how this writing ‘from life’ can
    reveal many new perspectives on historical knowledge of events, cultural
    identity and retrieve and recover perspectives and voices that would
    otherwise be lost. Linking these life stories to the question of
    personal and cultural memory, we will examine fundamental questions
    about culture such as ‘what do we know about identity formations’ and
    examine the political, interpersonal, social and cultural shifts that
    determine what, how and why people and societies ‘remember’ as we seek
    to uncover how and to what extent these life narratives and stories
    shape a culture.
    The course aims to look at the ways in which Life Writing is
    interdisciplinary, covering a broad spectrum of writing categories
    (auto/ biography, memoir, diary, travel writing, graphic novels, poetry
    and prose) but will, in addition, examine the privileged place of the
    ’scribal’ by introducing analysis of the overlooked contribution of oral
    culture (storytelling, performance poetry and lyric) and the visual
    (cartoon, fine art and graphic texts) as ways of expressing life
    experience (Assman, et al.).

    Teaching Methods

    Students must attend 1 lecture and 2 seminars each week.

    Method of Assessment

    Course Attendance 20%
    In-Class Participation 20%
    Essay 60%

    All components have to be graded 5.5 or higher.

    Entry Requirements

    Students must have participated in Literary Theory (L_ELBALES101).


    To be announced

    Target Audience

    First-year students of Literature and Society: English.

    Custom Course Registration

    There is a slightly different enrollment procedure for this module. The standard procedure of the Faculty of Humanities has students sign up for (i) the module, (ii) the form of tuition (lecture and/or preferred seminar group), and (iii) the exam. However, for this module the instructor will assign the students to the seminar groups. Therefore, students should sign up for (i) the module, (ii) the lectures and (iii) the exam, but not for the seminar group.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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