Rhetoric of American Autobiography and the Culture of Individualism
129AC | CCN: 77928
Instructor: Michael Mascuch
Date / Time: TuTh 930-11A, 109 DWINELLE
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.
Course reader of secondary texts.
1. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
2. Richard Wright, Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth
3. N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
4. Black Elk Speaks, Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux,
5. Joan Didion, Where I Was From
6. Luc Sante, The Factory of Facts