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HYM5280 - Reading and Writing Biography and Life Stories

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Barbara Caine


Not offered in 2007


This unit focuses on the writing of biography as a literary form, including questions about the relationship between biography and fiction; the many new forms of life story developed through feminist and postcolonial theory and through work in memory and testimony; and the uses of life story in case studies in the social sciences. The unit will deal with biography as metaphor, the importance of cultural context in reading and writing biography, life stories and cultural context, ways of analysing the authorial presence and the use of psychoanalysis in biography and life writing.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will be expected to:

  1. Have a sophisticated understanding of the different forms of writing biographies and life stories and of the importance of particular genres within this field.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which new fields such as psychoanalysis, feminism and gender studies and postcolonialism have affected the writing of life stories and biography.
  3. Be acquainted with some of the recent debates about the relationship between fiction and biography.
  4. Have developed advanced skills in written and oral communication.
  5. Have developed skills in working as a group.
  6. Have developed skills in using new technology.


Seminar presentation and paper (2,000 words): 20%
Group seminar presentation and paper (1000 words): 20%
Essay (5,000-6,000 words): 50%
General seminar performance: 10%

Contact hours

2 hours per week