Summer 2003

Lives in America: A Writing Course


06/23/2003 - 08/05/2003
Tuesday & Thursday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 136

Through the medium of creative autobiography, this course explores the varied voices of the "American" heritage in contemporary society. Which of our family's (and nations') traditions have helped shape us and our contemporary worldviews? How do ethnic and national legacies, lifestyle orientations, and socio-economic background inform the choices we make? In other words, how have "Jewishness," "blackness" "whiteness," "gayness," "richness," "Indianness," "Italianness," "poverty," "Mexicanness," and so forth, shaped our vision of ourselves and our society?

This creative writing course seeks to help students find their writing voices through the crafting of autobiographical prose. While the length of the prose pieces and their form (e.g., memoir, family portrait, journal, autobiographical essay, and so on) may vary, one aim of the course is to help students arrive at a finished piece of an appropriate length. (A novel, for example, is not a project appropriate in length for this course, whereas a chapter in a book is.)

The structure of the course is as follows: students will make regular presentations of their principal piece to members of the class. With the guidance of the instructor, students will engage in constructive critique of their classmates' efforts. Constructive critique is a skill that is gained, practiced, and honed over time and, since students' experience with it may vary, the instructor will help maintain the critical level and foster a constructive atmosphere.

Some readings will be assigned throughout the course. These readings are intended to illustrate how some American writers have entered into dialogue with their pasts, whether ethnic, socio-economic, or of sexual orientation. Some writers may include: Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer, Harold Brodsky, Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Cade Bambara, Edwige Danticat, and Edmund White.

Students will make three presentations to the class of the piece identified as their principal effort. Students may present only new work to the class. Drawing on former work is permissible, but this course is designed for new efforts. At the first class session, students will identify topics that they will elaborate as their principal effort. Though their ideas may change at this session, students are encouraged to bring to the first class session ideas of the kinds of topics they will wish to explore in the course.

Anthony Valerio (B.A., Columbia University) is the author of The Mediterranean Runs Through Brooklyn (New York: H.B. Davis, 1982); Valentino and the Great Italians (New York: Freundlich Books, 1986); BART: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti by Him and About Him (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1991); Conversation with Johnny (Toronto: Guernica, 1997); Anita Garibaldi: A Biography (Westport: Praeger, 2001). His essays and short stories are published widely.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:

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