Life Writing: Exploring and Recreating the Self (55+)

Who am I and can I be otherwise? We are all bundles of memories. Life writing allows us to examine our memories so as to explore and recreate the self. Through writing we can become more aware of our own lives and those of others.

We will explore how our lives can be seen as stories and told in ways that evoke a new sense of self. We will also discover new ways of writing that make use of our memory and imagination to transform our reflections and thoughts into written vignettes and postcard stories. We’ll practise giving new meanings to our memories, as well as creating personal narratives. Exercises will include group discussions, written responses to in-class readings and writing experiments.

Note: Back by popular demand, from spring 2015.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Essentials of Life Writing

We will practice writing our everyday lives in ways that make us more aware of ourselves and open our senses to new ways of experiencing the world. Through de-familiarizing our perceptions, we alert our senses to see new details which we then use in writing.

Week 2: Memory and Writing

The philosopher John Locke argued that we are what we remember being, that our sense of self depends on how we remember ourselves. After considering personal memory, group memory, and the question of association, we will practice creating images of ourselves through writing fragments of our lives.

Week 3: Why Write?

The reasons why we write about our lives or those of others is fundamental to the form of life writing. We will read some of the motives given by life writers and discuss the reasons why they write and the reasons why we write.

Week 4: Finding a Narrative Form

Narrative forms are the organizing principles of writing. We will discuss and practice a range of forms such as writing in fragments, through lines, and in poetry, and consider strategies for developing them. We will discover the narrative form best for us.

Week 5: Characters and Voices

Different characters have difference voices, whether they are mythical, everyday, family, or cultural characters. We will explore these different voices and their spoken rhythms and tones to discover our own voices and the stories we inhabit. We will then try shaping a writing voice of our own.

Week 6: Versions of a Life, Versions of Self

The perceptions of life events change through time. Research and imagination can also alter our past perceptions. We will consider how to use fact and fiction to create different versions of self and practice writing the stories of our lived lives, unlived lives, and imaginary lives.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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