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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

AMST 8920

American Studies 8920, "Personal Narratives in Interdisciplinary Research," taught by Jennifer Pierce will be held from 3:35 to 5:30 in Peik Hall on Wednesdays.

Course Description: This course examines epistemological, theoretical, and methodological questions related to research analyzing personal narrative sources such as oral histories, in-depth interviews, autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, and letters. As narrative constructions about selves, these sources can provide unique insights into subjectivity, meaning, emotion, and desire that other kinds of social science and historical evidence cannot. The evidence presented in personal narratives is unabashedly subjective and, its narrative logic presents a story of an individual subject changing and developing over time. Their analyses can provide important insights into the history of the self and its variations at the same time that they have the potential to enrich theories of human agency and social practices. Analyses of personal narratives can also illuminate historical, cultural, and social dimensions. In this light, personal narratives are never solely individual.
We begin by reading about epistemological, theoretical, and methodological issues related to personal narrative analysis in work by literary scholars, historians, and social scientists. The next section focuses on a number of studies analyzing personal narratives drawing from different kinds of sources such as oral histories, autobiographical life stories, letters, diaries, and even forms of social media such as blogs and online games in fields such as American studies, feminist studies, ethnic studies, history, anthropology, and sociology. In the final section, we consider hybrid forms of personal narrative analysis, the difficulties researchers encounter when they encounter "ephemeral traces of subjectivity," and the ethics of conducting personal narrative research.
Some of the readings include: Paul John Eakin, How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves, Saba Mahmood, The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject,
G. Thomas Couser, Vulnerable Subjects: Ethics and Life Writing, Mary Jo Maynes, Jennifer L. Pierce, and Barbara Laslett, Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in Social Science and in History, Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and in Freedom, Amy Wilkins, Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style and Status,
Carolyn Kay Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman, Mamie Garvin Fields, Lemon Swamp and Other Stories: A Carolina Memoir, and Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.