An examination of autobiographies and memoirs by Americans both well-known and obscure. These reflections by people from diverse backgrounds who made and experienced American history provide insight and perspective on the historical periods in which they lived. Subjects vary by semester.
The course will include three units. In the first, we will explore the range of American autobiographies in order to develop an understanding of how Americans have written autobiographies to account for their own lives and how historians use them to understand the past. In the remaining units, we will take a closer look at two particular historical events through the lens of a famous autobiography: the American Civil Rights Movement in the twentieth century and the movement to abolish slavery in the nineteenth century.
This course falls in the Humanities sub-domain (Domain I.B). Its general education learning objectives are:
- Communicate effectively in writing
- Demonstrate a Critical Understanding of Human Diversity
Goals and Objectives
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
- Describe autobiographies as a type of historical source, including the opportunities they offer for historical analysis as well as their limitations.
- Understand how the historical context in which the authors lived and wrote shaped how they presented themselves and their experiences.
- Place autobiographies in their historical contexts and discuss the relationship of the texts to contemporary historical events and other historical sources.
March 23, 2020 update: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, instruction will be remote for the remainder of the semester. Please check the Blackboard site for this course for the most recent updates and news.