Summer 2003

HUMS 634
Autobiographies and Childhood Narratives


06/23/2003 - 08/05/2003
Monday & Wednesday 01:30 PM - 04:00 PM

Fisk Hall 101

Examining the fine line between fiction and autobiography and exploring the significance of (auto)biographical information (childhood experiences in particular) to literary analysis of a writer's fiction will be two important goals of this course. To do this, we will read autobiographical, autofictional, and fictional works, in translation from the French, by a number of twentieth-century French and Francophone authors. These will include existentialist writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, French New Novelist Nathalie Sarraute, the Caribbean writer Joseph Zobel, and French-Canadian writer Gabrielle Roy, all gifted writers with their own childhood stories to tell, in their own distinctive way.

The biographical and historical context of the works will also allow us to explore a number of other germane issues, such as the Algerian War of Independence (under way as Camus wrote The First Man), the history of French colonialism in the Caribbean (Zobel), some important features of French Canadian culture (Roy), the perspective of Russian immigrants in Paris (Sarraute), and the world of the Parisian bourgeoisie (Sartre). The roles of parents, educational institutions, and teachers, in forming the writer-to-be, are also themes that we will explore in each of these works. In addition, we will discuss the friendships and professional relationships that formed between several of these writers as adults (namely between Sartre and Camus, and Sartre and Sarraute). In the case of Camus and Sartre, we will examine selections from several biographies recently published about them and juxtapose autobiographical and biographical accounts of their life.

Texts include Albert Camus, The First Man; Gabrielle Roy, Street of Riches; Nathalie Sarraute, Childhood; Jean-Paul Sartre, Words; Joseph Zobel, Black Shack Alley; Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography; Olivier Todd, Albert Camus: A life; Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre: A life. Assignments will include several short papers, and one longer comparative analysis that involves examining a fictional work (of the student's choice) in light of the author's autobiography and/or biography. Students will also have the option of writing a short autobiographical piece, which they will compare on a formal and thematic level to one of the autobiographical works read for class. Students will also be expected to keep an ongoing reading journal and to participate actively in class discussions.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

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