The Course

This course will examine the narrative conventions of autobiography, the rhetorical strategies writers use to construct a textual self, and the historical contours of writing (and revising) “the” American self. In a nation famous for invention and new beginnings, how have writers used the conventions and constraints inherent in autobiographical writing to present an American identity? In what ways have traditional tenets of autobiography been challenged or subverted? What textual selves have been sanctioned and celebrated? We will pursue such questions by reading both canonical and contemporary examples of autobiography and memoir.

Required Texts & Materials (available at the Saint Rose bookstore)

Course Objectives:

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Read and analyze texts carefully and critically
  • Identify characteristic elements of the genre of autobiography
  • Draft, develop, and revise a literary analysis paper
  • Recognize the relationship between and among texts (American autobiographies) to larger literary, cultural, and political context

Course Requirements

Reading: There will be a significant amount of reading due for every class. You are responsible for having the material read in time for class discussion.


1) Exploratory/Informal: Each week you will write an end-of–the-week blog post as a means of documenting your responses to the reading material. As a genre, blog posts are one kind of informal writing—more like a journal or a letter to a friend than a formal essay or report. Choose specific passages to quote—passages that inspire, confuse, or challenge you (and ones that we have not discussed thoroughly in class!). These blog posts should raise questions, pose problems, provoke thought and generate discussion. You can assume that your audience (the rest of your class) is familiar with the text, so there will be no need to provide lengthy summaries or plotlines. Instead, your blog should function as a public journal and platform for trying out ideas, raising interesting questions, and offering useful interpretations. Your blog will thus serve as an important archive of your own reading and writing, which you will then draw upon for both of your formal literary analyses.

Breakdown of Weekly Online Work:

  • Each blog post = 6 points (x 10 posts)=60 points
  • Each blog comment = 2 points (x 20) =40 points
  • Total =100 points

Each week you have the opportunity to make or lose 10 points (1 RR blog post and 2 peer comments=10 points per week for 10 weeks) so it’s an easy way to maintain your grade, but it’s also an easy way to slide into the lower end of the grade spectrum.  Here’s a handy-dandy grid you can print out to keep track of your weekly work: Blog_Grid106

*Note: Weekly work must be completed by the deadline in order to receive credit. No late work will be accepted.

2) Formal: Your weekly informal writing will be the inspiration for two literary analyses. In order for you to discover, complicate, and clarify your thinking, we will approach this project in stages including: an exploratory draft, and a final revised essay. Along the way we will use peer workshops and one-on-one writers’ conferences to help you develop your best writing. I will post details about assignment closer to due date.


Our class is a discussion class, not a lecture class. The success and vitality of our time together depends on your presence—-so be here! After three absences, your final course grade will be reduced by a half-letter grade for each subsequent absence (e.g.: an A- drops to a B+, a B becomes a B-, etc.). If you know ahead of time when you will be absent, please let me know. You are responsible for making up missed work and coming to the next class fully prepared.


I will evaluate your work in this class based on: your writing process and finished products; your level of participation in small groups and whole class discussions; and the degree of commitment you demonstrate in your weekly online writing. At the end of the semester, I will collect and grade a final portfolio of your work that will consist of a tally of your weekly blogging, drafts of each literary analysis, final revisions of each literary analysis, and a self-reflection letter.

A An ‘A’ is reserved for exceptional work. This means that you not only fulfilled the basic requirements of the course, but also pushed your reading and your writing in new, creative, and dynamite ways. An ‘A’ signifies that there is clear evidence of extensive commitment to the course material. Your writing is insightful, clear, well supported, organized, and free of sentence-level errors. All of your blog posts were thorough, on time, and well written. You were consistently a stellar participant in classroom discussions and the weekly blog conversation.

B A ‘B’ is reserved for good work. You fulfilled the basic requirements of the course and your work shows evidence of increased effort. You engaged the course material, worked on revisions, and were an important member of classroom discussions and group workshops. Your writing is insightful, clear, well supported, organized, and largely free of sentence-level errors. The majority of your blog posts were thorough, on time, and well written. You were a strong participant in classroom discussions and the weekly blog conversation.

C A ‘C’ is reserved for average work. You fulfilled the basic requirements of the course but did not push yourself beyond them. A ‘C’ might also indicate excessive absences, missed assignments, or inattention to the presentation and quality of your work. Your blog was incomplete or late. You were an infrequent participant in class discussions, and/or the weekly blog conversation.

Final Writing Portfolio =50%

Online Work                     = 25%

Class participation        =25%

Academic Integrity

Students at The College of Saint Rose are expected to be honest in every aspect of their academic work.  All work presented as a student’s own must be the product of her or his own efforts. Plagiarism, cheating, academic misconduct, or any other submission of another’s work as one’s own are unacceptable.  Students working in groups are each individually responsible for the academic integrity of the entire group project.  Here is the College’s Policy on Plagiarism and Other Infringements of Academic Honesty, which includes definition, detailed explications of plagiarism and academic misconduct, and procedure.

Academic Accommodations
If you are a student with a documented disability and require academic accommodations please register with Lynn Cantwell, the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, located in the Academic Success Center on the 2nd floor of St. Joseph Hall (x2335 or 337-2335) for disability verification and for determination of recommended reasonable academic accommodations.  After you have made arrangements with that office, please see me to discuss your accommodations.  Please remember that timely notice will help avoid a delay in your receipt of accommodations.


The Writing Center

The Writing Center welcomes all student writers, from first-year students to those in graduate programs, from students who find writing challenging to strong writers looking to be even more effective. Every writer can benefit from feedback and individual attention. Tutors are trained to support both native speakers of English and English Language Learners to develop and enhance writing skills. During half-hour and hour-long tutoring sessions, trained tutors assist students with any stages of the writing process: selecting a topic, brainstorming, outlining, drafting, organization, research, documentation, and revision. Call 518-454-5299 or stop by the Academic Success Center, on the second floor of Saint Joseph Hall, to schedule a session.