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Special Topics in the Literature of Life Writing

Course Code: ENGL 2328
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: English
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course offers an in-depth study of literature in a specific area of life writing, emphasizing several works by one author, OR works by several authors writing in the same form (such as the diary or memoir), OR works by several authors exploring the same theme (such as spirituality, the environment or enslavement/liberation). Works may be drawn from any historical periods or cultural contexts, and may be read in translation. Students will also read and bring into their study some relevant theoretical and critical texts.

Course Content

All second-year English literature courses share the following features:

  • Students are presumed to be proficient in the writing of critical essays on literary subjects.
  • Students are required to read in the course subject area beyond the texts assigned by the instructor or discussed in class.
  • Students are required to incorporate into their oral and written coursework secondary source materials. These may include autobiographical or biographical material; literary criticism or theory; unassigned texts by the author under study; relevant cultural or intellectual history; or other arts, such as music, film, or fine arts.
  • Readings and topics will vary with each instructor’s presentation of a course; however, all course materials are consistent with the objectives/outcomes of the course.  

In English 2328, students will examine life writing works linked by sub-genre, by author or by theme, such as any of the following:

  1. Narratives of trauma, disability or disease;
  2. Autobiography and the theatre;
  3. Literary letters;
  4. Narratives of Slavery and Emancipation;
  5. Creative non-fiction and the personal essay;
  6. Spiritual Autobiography;
  7. Travel journals; and
  8. Life Writing of the Holocaust.

Methods of Instruction

Some or all of the following methods will be used:

  • Lecture/discussion;
  • Group work;
  • Peer editing;
  • Instructor feedback on students’ work; and
  • Individual consultation.

Means of Assessment

  1. A minimum of two formal academic essays, with a combined value of at least 40% of the course grade.
  2. A minimum of 80% of the course grade will be based on writing assignments (essays, essay-based exams, journals, paragraphs). A maximum of 20% of the course grade may be based on informal writing (quizzes, short answer tests); oral reports/presentations; participation/preparation grades; and/or other non writing-intensive assignments.
  3. A minimum of 15% of the course grade will be based on in-class writing (essay or exam).

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of any second-year English literature course, the student should

  1. be able to use with increased proficiency the skills of literary analysis taught in first-year English courses;
  2. be able to recognize the significance of the literary and non-literary or cultural context of a work being studied, such as the biographical, historical, mythological or philosophical context;
  3. be able to read critically and use in essays secondary sources, such as criticism and other texts by the same author, as an aid to comprehending the primary text(s) being studied;
  4. be able to read critically and independently works or aspects of works not discussed in class; and
  5. be able to formulate a thesis on a given subject in one or more specific works, and to develop this thesis using suitable textual evidence.

Upon completion of English 2328, the student should also have deepened her/his understanding of

  1. the complexity of defining and differentiating among modes such as fact, fiction and non-fiction;
  2. the complexity of defining and establishing boundaries between genres and sub-genres of life writing;
  3. problems in determining the veracity or reliability of self-disclosure, and in self-censorship;
  4. the psychological power and central role of confession in various forms of life writing;
  5. key issues regarding the roles of memory, language and historical/cultural context in the construction of meaning and identity; and
  6. the role of the reader or influence of audience over the writer and text.

course prerequisites

Any TWO university-transfer first-year English literature courses, or ONE university-transfer first-year English literature course and ONE university-transfer first-year Creative Writing or English writing course. 

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.