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Topics in the Literature of Life Writing

Course Code: ENGL 3150
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: English
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
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. It may emphasize 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 similar or related themes (such as spirituality, the environment or enslavement/liberation). Works may be drawn from a variety of 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 third-year English literature courses share the following features:

  1. Students are presumed to have had first-year level instruction and experience in writing critical essays on literary subjects.
  2. Students are required to read in the course subject area beyond the texts assigned by the instructor.
  3. Students are required to incorporate into their oral and written coursework secondary source materials which may include biographical information, literary criticism or theory, unassigned texts by the author under study, relevant cultural or intellectual history, or other aesthetic works such as music or visual art.

Readings and topics will vary with each instructor’s presentation of a course, but all course materials are consistent with the stated objectives/outcomes for the course.

In English 3150, students may examine life writing works linked by sub-genre, by author, or by theme, such as any of the following:

  • Narratives of trauma, disability, or disease;
  • Autobiography and the theatre;
  • Literary letters;
  • Narratives of slavery and emancipation;
  • Creative non-fiction and the personal essay;
  • Spiritual autobiography;
  • Travel journals; and
  • Life writing in the Holocaust

These works will be complemented by related readings from non-literary perspectives, such as journalistic essays, articles from academic journals, or internet information pages, including criticism and theory as it relates to the work of the particular authors, periods, or themes under study.

For purposes of comparison, students may also examine some mock-autobiographical works (such as fiction, diaries or memoirs that purport to be based on “real-life”) and /or autobiographical film, theatre, music, or performance art.

Methods of Instruction

Some or all of the following methods will be used:

  1. lecture/discussion;
  2. group work;
  3. peer review;
  4. independent research;
  5. instructor feedback on students’ work;
  6. individual consultation; and
  7. presentation (individual or group).

Means of Assessment

  1. A minimum of two formal academic essays, with a combined value of at least 80% of the course grade (combined total).
  2. 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.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of any third-year English literature course, students should be able to

  1. read and analyze literary texts with increased skill and insight;
  2. integrate their understanding of literature into an evolving awareness of relevant cultural and historical contexts and perspectives;
  3. perceive connections among literary texts across genres, historical periods, and/or cultural contexts;
  4. conduct independent research to supplement the course material and integrate this information into course assignments; and
  5. write different kinds of literary analyses, such as thematic, technical, or theoretical.

Upon completion of English 3150, students should also have deepened their understanding of

  1. the complexity of defining and differentiating among modes such as fact, fiction, and creative non- fiction;
  2. the complexity in defining and establishing boundaries between genres and sub-genres of life writing;
  3. the problems in determining the veracity or reliability of self-disclosure and 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 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, AND a minimum of 45 credit hours.

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.