First Person America: Radical Autobiography

Terry K Park, 38th Parallels

Temple University

Fall 2013

Course website + syllabus

This course explores how marginalized populations in the United States (women, people of color, queers, transgender people, people with disabilities, the poor, youth, and others) have used autobiographical mediums to “speak back” against official national narratives–often challenging U.S. nationalist myths of universal “freedom,” “equality,” and “democracy.” Connecting current political, economic, and cultural situations to the histories that enabled them, the course will also encourage students to examine their own autobiographical performances. We will examine how autobiography is an embodied, multi-sensory genre and takes varied forms, including cooking food with our families of choice, sharing stories about our histories, writing music, drawing comics, creating films, and even getting dressed in the morning.

Even as we explore the radical possibilities of autobiography, we will also question how autobiography is assumed to be  more “true,” “unmediated,” or “authentic” than other genres of national storytelling. Ultimately the course will provide students with the skills necessary to critically examine the stories about nation, gender, sexuality, race, class, and dis/ability they encounter in their everyday lives.