WOST 391H FALL 2002
U.S. Women's Lives in Contexts: Arlene Avakian
Reading and Creating Political Autobiography
email: avakian@wost.umass.edu
TUTH 1:00-2:15

OFFICE HOURS: Thursdays 2:30-3:45
208 Bartlett

The class will explore the ways in which lives are embedded within their social, political and cultural contexts; how those contexts change over time; the ways in which people construct their lives within and against these contexts; and how people represent their lives. We will have a particular focus on the ways in which gender, race, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation impact on lives and the ways these social forces interact with each other. Examining their own lives in their contexts, students will create autobiographical work which could take a variety of forms; e.g. written, oral, visual or dramatic.

Course Requirements

  1. Students are expected to come to class having carefully read the material assigned for that day and prepared to engage in serious discussion. Class participation counts for 15% of the grade.

  2. The successful progression of this course depends on students keeping up with the work. A written project plan will be required as well as in class writing. The in class writing will not graded, but maybe collected. The plans will not be graded with a letter grade, but are required, and plans that are late (without permission from me) or not done seriously will be factored into the grade as an F. While most of the autobiographical work will be done individually, students will also be engaged with each other's work. Some class time will be devoted to sharing your work with a partner or in a small groups, in addition to large class discussions. If you do not complete assignments on time both your own work and the class discussions will suffer. Doing the writing assignments on time will help you do your work within a collective context that is designed to keep you on track by giving you valuable feedback from your classmates. Also, if you keep up with the assignments you will be much more likely to have sufficient time to complete your final project. You may keep a journal if you think it will be helpful to you, and I would be happy to read it if you are interested in feedback. A journal is, however, totally optional. Other than the autobiographical project, the bulk of the written work is the racial identity paper, and it counts for 35% of the grade. Non-graded work which is late or unacceptable will also be factored into this 35%. LATE WORK WILL BE GRADED DOWN UNLESS YOU CONSULT WITH ME.

  3. The major work for the course is an autobiographical project that puts you into your social contexts. The form of the final work need not be written, however students who choose to use a form other than writing need to have theie project approved by me. Written work should be a minimum of 25 pages. All work must be typed, double spaced. The autobiographical project counts for 50% of the grade.

Anne Braden, The Wall Between. 1999. University of Tennessee Press.
Wesley Brown & Amy Ling, Visions of America: Personal Narratives from the Promised Land. 1993. New York Persea Books
Mary Crow Dog with Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman. 1990. New York: Harper Perennial
Joan Nestle, A Restricted Country. 1987. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand (XEROXED COPY)
Margaret Randall, This is About Incest. 1987. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand
Rebecca Walker, Black, White, and Jewish. 2001. NY: Riverhead


Food For Thought books--East Pleasant Street/Amherst

Collective Copy-- 71 South Pleasant Street/Amherst


Section I -- What is autobiography?
What is political about it? What forms do autobiography and politics take?
Who writes autobiography? For whom? What purpose(s) does it serve?
Who cares or how to deal with the "so what" factor.