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Handbooks Courses Units
Monash University

Graduate Diploma in Biography and Life Writing

Course code: 3074 ~ Course abbreviation: GradDipBiog&LifeWrit ~ Total credit points required: 48 ~ 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time ~ Managing faculty: Arts

Study mode and course location

On-campus (Clayton)

Course description

This course will explore many of the theoretical and practical issues involved in reading and writing biographies and life stories. It will include practical questions about the accessing of resources and the ways to utilise and design interviews. It will address many of the ethical, moral and legal questions involved in writing biography and life stories. It will also offer students an understanding of some of the ways in which psychoanalysis, feminist theory and postcolonial studies have affected the understanding of biography and life writing. Students will explore the history of biography and autobiography, and some of the different ways in which biographies have been constructed and written. The use of life stories in history and sociology will also be discussed.

Course objectives

Students completing this course will have: 1. an understanding of diverse aspects of the academic discipline; 2. an understanding of the world view of the field of study; 3. a familiarity with the secondary literature in the field of study; 4. a familiarity with many of the key texts and cultural products pertaining to the field of study; 5. advanced reading and communication skills, both written and verbal; 6. developed sound analytical skills; 7. developed the ability to use relevant technology such as databases, information management systems and search engines effectively.

Course structure

Course requirements

Students complete 48 points, including one 12-point core unit and three 12-point elective units offered at level 4. Not all units are available each year. Unless otherwise indicated in the unit outline, all units are taught at Clayton.

Core unit

  • HYM4270 Research methods in biography and life writing

Elective units

  • HYM4120 Reading and writing Australian history
  • HYM4200 History and memory: oral history, life stories and commemoration
  • HYM4280 Reading and writing biography and life stories
  • HYM4290 Holocaust memories: landscape, mourning, identity
  • HYM4560 The past around us
  • HYM4620 Family history and genealogy
  • HYM4660 Recording oral history: theory and practice
  • HYM4820 Local and community history
  • HYM4900 History, biography and autobiography
  • HYM4950 Hidden transcripts: cultural approaches to the past
  • HYM4960 The body, gender and history
  • JWM4030 Jewish history and Jewish memory: writing and reading the Jewish past
  • one other approved 12-point unit

Exit point

Students who have completed 24 points towards the Graduate Diploma in Biography and Life Writing may be offered an exit award of a Graduate Certificate in Arts.


For further study options please contact the School of Historical Studies or visit

Course coordinator

Professor Barbara Caine