129AC: Autobiography and the Rhetoric of Individualism in America
Instructor(s) Michael Mascuch
This Rhetoric course is intended to fulfill the American Cultures Breadth Requirement. Its basic purpose is to introduce students to American autobiography and American cultures by means of exploring how representations of personal experience by writers of diverse cultural groups respond to or are otherwise informed by the American rhetoric of individualism. We will begin with a general, critical discussion of "individualism" as an ideology and of "autobiography" as a literary genre that performs a specific rhetorical function for Americans, and then move on to explore the complex relationship between genre and ideology in American cultures through rhetorical analysis of particular autobiographies. We will examine a series of primary works drawn from three distinct American cultures: African Americans, European Americans, and Native Americans, to consider how these texts address the imperatives of ideology and genre.
: Besides written work, regular class attendance and participation in class discussion. In order to participate, you must keep up with the reading assignments. You will post weekly responses on bSpace and write three analytical arguments: one brief (4-5 pp.) analysis of the introductory concepts; one medium (5-7 pp.), and one longish (7-10 pp.) interpretive/comparative papers that apply the concepts to individual autobiographies. There is no midterm and no final exam.
1. Course reader (to be posted on bSpace).
2. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
, ed David W. Blight, 2nd paper edn. (New York: Bedford/: St. Martin’s Press, 2002). ISBN-10: 0312257376
3. Richard Wright, Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth
(paper edn., New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008). ISBN-10: 0061443085
4. N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976). ISBN-10: 0826304362
5. Black Elk Speaks, Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
, (3rd edn., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004). ISBN-10: 0803283857
6. Joan Didion, Where I Was From
(Paper edn, New York: Vintage, 2004). ISBN-10: 0679752862
7. Luc Sante, The Factory of Facts
(Paper edn., New York: Vintage, 1999). ISBN-10: 0679746501