SWG 360 The Cultural Work of Memoir

Susan Van Dyne, T Th 3:00 PM -4:50 PM

 This course takes the foundational premise of SWG that culture constructs subjects and asks how do queer or non-normative subjectivities come into existence? By studying a selection of literary memoirs by women and men in the last half century in the U.S., we will explore the relationships between queer subjectivities, politicized identities, communities, historical moments, and social movements. The course depends on a second more radical premise that we do not have a life until we narrate it. How does life-writing as an expressive act create livable lives? Students will produce analytical essays and a substantial memoir portfolio. Through the process of reflecting, re-imagining, and revising, we explore multiple writing strategies to turn our lives into art. 4 credits


As a seminar in SWG, the course has a prerequisite of our intro SWG 150 and another course in the program. Priority will be given to qualified juniors and seniors. The course is open to non-SWG majors. Good preparation for the course would be literature courses in any department and/ or queers studies courses.

Because the course is in part a writing workshop, I’ve asked for writing samples. These could be any length on any subject, either analytical or creative -- I’m looking for evidence that you’re a good writer and care about precise language.Your writing sample should be sent to Rachel Siegel (rsiegel@smith.edu.) If you want to tell me more about your background, please include that in the email with your writing sample.

Registering now will indicate your interest in the seminar. The registration will say “Permission pending, instructor permission required.”  After the pre-registration  period ends, I’ll review the writing samples and let you know by email, probably after Thanksgiving break.