Life Writing at UHM

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa English department offers courses in life writing every semester. Check the menu for more information on the courses that are on rotation, the recent MA theses and PhD dissertations done in the department, and more.

For Fall 2019, the following courses will be taught:

Click on the course title for a full description!

Life Writing in the English Department

Eng 764: The Human in Crisis: Life Narratives as Sites of Struggle

– Cynthia Franklin

This course addresses the slippery status of the human and the political power and ethical stakes that accompany our understandings of how humanity is defined, and who it does—and does not—include. To investigate this question—currently a pressing one in the humanities—we consider life writing texts in conjunction with contemporary theory that takes up the questions of the human. The course engages with texts and concerns central to a number of different fields: life writing, human rights, affect studies, queer studies, Afro-pessimism, studies of race and ethnicity, indigenous studies, settler colonial studies, (post-) humanism, trauma studies, and civility studies. You should emerge with some fluency in these fields.

As we consider life writing texts that illuminate the humanity—and inhumanity—that these cases involve, we will explore the particular power life writing has to define and complicate understandings of the human. We will consider why some autobiographical or biographical genres are more given over to some subjects than to others. We also will think about how these various life writing texts articulate with the theoretical and critical texts we read—what can theory do that life writing texts cannot, and vice versa? And how do the life writing texts support, but also at times challenge and rework, theoretical formulations? We will conclude the course by considering how the texts and the situations we have studied might inform or be informed by attention to other forms and genres of dehumanization, especially those relating to gender and sexuality.

Eng 364: Nonfiction Prose: “Based on a True Story”

– Craig Howes

Our focus will be how experience gets turned into writing, and then how that writing gets turned into other media. The sections of this course will compare various examples of how people have represented their own lives, the lives of others, and sometimes both.

Eng 313: Types of Creative Writing: Writing our Families: Poetry and Creative Nonfiction

-No’u Revilla

In this course,  will read how different poets and creative nonfiction writers find more precise names for the people who mean “family,” more precise language for the ways these creatures – so intimate with our good, bad, and howling parts – shape us. Family, in this course, is not limited to blood relatives but also includes land, gods, chosen family as well as intellectual, activist, and artistic genealogies.

Eng 311: Autobiographical Writing

– Daphne Desser

This course examines the role of writing memoir as an “art and act of remembering,” one that serves not only to further the healing of inherited trauma but also as a rhetorical act of resistance in an emerging “fact-free” media landscape. Students will write critical responses to published memoirs and secondary scholarship as well as their own autobiographical essays.

Life Writing in American Studies & Ethnic Studies

AMST 318/ES 318: Asian America

– Brian Chung

This course broadens attention to the experiences and perspectives of Asian Americans through interrelated contexts of race, class, gender, policy, immigration, war, and citizenship.  We will work to understand how course materials highlight the dynamic dimensions of Asian America and the implications of how Asian America has been imagined both historically and today. Students will read autobiographical texts by Carlos Bulosan, Yasutaro Soga, and Jane Jeong Trenka.

AMST 150: America and the World

– Jeffrey Tripp

This course examines formations of “America” in a global context, beginning with its emergence as a European colonial outpost imposed on indigenous peoples, to its emergence as an imperial and military power in the modern era. We will survey major world-historical events in which the U.S. has played key roles as well as consider the significant impacts that other world cultures have had on the American social, political, cultural and economic fabric (and vice versa). Central to the organization of this course is a consideration of race, class and gender as crucial axes for the formation of “America” and Americans. Students will read two autobiography texts, among other works, by Olaudah Equiano and Art Spiegelman.

Upcoming Courses

Spring 2020