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CCOG for ENG 212 Summer 2022

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Course Number:
ENG 212
Course Title:
Biography and Autobiography
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Covers the study of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and journals as works of literature. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Distinguish the structures of biography and autobiography from one another in order to recognize them as distinct forms of literature.
  2. Compare and contrast the ways in which a perceiving, living individual (the "subject") is treated in biography, autobiography, and other literary genres such as poetry, fiction, and journalism.
  3. Analyze how an author's own ideology shapes reality in an autobiography or biography, including how it raises questions about truth, factuality, objectivity, and subjectivity.
  4. Connect biographical and autobiographical texts to their historical and cultural contexts.
  5. Examine the roles that argument, rhetoric, fiction, photography, aesthetics, and evidence play in the composing process of biography and autobiography.

Integrative Learning

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to reflect on one’s work or competencies to make connections between course content and lived experience.

General education philosophy statement

English and Writing courses align with the PCC General Education philosophy by providing an appreciation of writing and literature from global and personal perspectives. Students in English courses engage the imagination, critical inquiry and self‐reflection, and in the process of doing so, cultivate a more complex understanding of their own culture(s), linguistic/communication practices, and perspectives in relation to others. Because the literary arts lie at the heart of most human cultures, they are essential for understanding each other and navigating our differences. In literature classes, students explore significant texts from diverse cultures and periods in history. Students look closely at texts from a range of genres, articulating the way elements of writing, content, form, and style are interrelated, and considering how values and interpretations have changed over time and through different theoretical lenses. Students engage texts through critical analysis and creative response, learning to use evidence to support their interpretations and to navigate critical conversations. Students explore literature both as an art form designed to provoke thought and challenge social norms, and as an expression of human experience. Writing and Literature courses foster a stronger sense of engagement with history, culture, and society. Writing and Literature students develop an awareness of themselves as readers and writers in a global world, and an enlarged understanding of the relationships between language, identity, ideas, scholarship, communication, and transformation.

Course Activities and Design

Class meeting time consists of lecture, group discussion, and various other activities—small group discussion, in-class writings, and perhaps some guest speakers and viewing and listening to videotape and audio recordings.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Instructors vary on methods of assessment, but generally instructors employ some combination of quizzes, exams, essays, and reading notebooks. The final grade is generally based upon the quality and extent of students' understanding of the course readings and discussions, as demonstrated in writings, discussion in class, and conferences.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

ENG 212 inevitably encompasses such issues as gender, ethnicity, social equality, racism, and many others. Like most literature courses, ENG 212 ventures into the territory of many other disciplines, such as philosophy, political science, history, American studies, law, literary criticism, psychology, sociology, geography, religion, and ethnic studies. The theoretical means to arriving at some answers are equally disparate: The course typically employs, often invisibly, the techniques of new historicism, semiotics, new criticism, reader-response theory, feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, and genre criticism.


The following items are intended as descriptions of instructors' choices of texts in the past as an aid to choosing texts in the future. This is not intended as a prescribed or recommended list of texts. Some of the many possibilities:

 1. Autobiographies

Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography.

Goldman, Emma. Living My Life: The Autobiography of Emma Goldman

Genet, Jean. A Thief's Journal.

Hurston, Zora Neal. Dust Tracks on the Road.

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior.

Levi, Primo. Survival at Auschwitz.

Lipton, Eunice. Alias, Olympia.

Luxemburg, Rosa. Comrade and Lover: Rosa Luxemburg's Letters to Leo Jogiches.

McCall, Nathan. Makes Me Wanna Holler.

Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden.

 2. Biographies

Berger, John. The Success and Failure of Picasso.

Boswell, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson.

Campbell, James. Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin.

Foucault, Michel, ed. I, Pierre Riviere, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Brother, and My Sister . . .

Hayman, Ronald. Sartre: A Biography.

Middlebrook, Diane. Ann Sexton: A Biography.

Pichois, Claude. Baudelaire.

Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Strachey, Lytton. Eminent Victorians.

Sylvester, Richard S., and Davis P. Harding, eds. Two Early Tudor Lives.

 3. Anthologies

Swann and Krupat, eds. I Tell You Now.

Lyons, Robert. Autobiography: A Reader for Writers.

Instructors new to the course should contact the campus literature chair, Comp/Lit SAC chair, faculty department chair, or administrative support person for further information. Other faculty members who have taught the course are also valuable sources of information.