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HYM4900 - History, Biography and Autobiography

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Barbara Caine


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


This unit explores the writing of biography and autobiography from the late eighteenth century, looking in particular at changing ideas about subjectivity and identity, and at the relationship between biography and the novel across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It will include Boswell's 'Life of Johnson'; Rousseau's 'Confessions'; fictional autobiographies such as Jane Eyre; the affect of the development of psychoanalysis; the 'new' approach to biography by Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey; Carolyn Steedman's negotiation of autobiography in 'Landscape for a Good Woman'; and contemporary autobiographies and biographies.


Students completing this course will be expected to:

  1. Have a detailed knowledge of the developments and changes in autobiography and biography from the late 18th century to the present.
  2. Understand the connection between autobiography, biography and fiction across the period.
  3. Understand the impact of Freud on the writing of biography.
  4. Understand some of the different approaches that historians have taken to biography across this period.
  5. Develop the critical skills required to analyse and assess different approaches to biography.


Historiographical essay (3000 words): 35%
Essay (4000 words): 45%
Writing exercises (2000 words): 20%

Contact hours

2 hour seminar per week


HSY4810, HYM5900