ENG 724: Issues in autobiography.

This semester’s class is on autobiography and memoir. When I saw it in the class catalog, I knew I had to take this class.

I love memoirs. I like celebrity memoirs where you find out all the dirt behind-the-scenes, and I like memoirs written by unknowns who have survived their demons. I like quirky memoirs by humorists where you aren’t quite sure their stories are 100% true, and memoirs by writers who write about their writing process.

I love writing memoir. I like journaling about things that happen in my life, the thoughts that I have, the beliefs that I hold. I like posting stories on my blog for others to enjoy. I like how the bits and pieces add up to my life, while also telling the introduction into my son’s life.

The class includes both reading and studying life narratives, as well as writing and workshopping our own piece of narrative.

I walked into class today and the first face I saw was familiar, a woman who was in my class last semester and who recognized me despite the fact that we hardly said five words to each other. She smiled and greeted me as if we were friends. It helped me feel comfortable and I really appreciated her for it.

Out of the four other students in class (yep, it’s a small one!), three were in my class last semester. I found my seat near them and we started a conversation about the application process. They are all in their second semester of their programs (2 are in the MFA, 1 is in the MA). The fourth student is also in the MA program, but I didn’t catch how far along she is. It sounds like she might be a semester or two ahead of the others.

The biggest difference in this class was my participation. With a smaller group, and with knowing some of them from before, I immediately felt more comfortable talking right from the beginning. I had experience hearing them discuss their own feelings of imposter syndrome and I know that we have a lot of the same misgivings about entering grad school.

The discussions were on my level. Last semester’s class was so much about literary theory that I constantly felt that I was way behind since it had been so many years since my last theory class. This time I knew at least a little bit about the topic (especially since I did a little bit of reading in the textbook beforehand) and was ready with thoughtful responses. I definitely felt more prepared and ready to contribute than last semester.

Last semester’s instructor was very upfront about the fact that although it’s called “Intro to Graduate Studies,” the course wasn’t typical of graduate classes. There was more jumping around, trying to cover different literary theories and having us write or outline the different types of papers that will be expected. It’s nice to see that he was right. This class is not less challenging, but challenging in a more expected way.

I also like that she’s going to have us lead the discussions and she will act more (as I understand it) as a mediator, bringing up additional questions or asking us to think of it in a different way. Leading a discussion will be pushing my comfort zone, but with such a small class, it should be easier than if I was in a class of 20.

Now to just make sure I can stay on track with all of the reading. I have to start and finish The Autobiography of Malcolm X by next Monday, which shouldn’t be as difficult as I’m making it out to be in my mind. It’s one book in one week. With a weekend. No sweat*.


*She says with fingers crossed while knocking on wood that she isn’t jinxing herself with this seemingly innocent statement.

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