raut20-v032-i01-cover-2Special Issue 32.1

Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives


The 2016 Hogan Prize

Julia Watson, The Ohio State University, Emerita [watson.235@osu.edu]


Teaching Lives: Contemporary Pedagogies of Life Narratives

Kate Douglas, Flinders University [kate.douglas@flinders.edu.au] and Laurie McNeill, University of British Columbia [laurie.mcneill@ubc.ca]

The contemporary “boom” in the publication and consumption of auto/biographical representation has made life narratives a popular and compelling subject for the twenty-first century classroom. The proliferation of forms, media, terminologies, and disciplinary approaches in a range of teaching and learning contexts invites discussion of how and why we teach these materials, and with what implications and considerations. This introduction briefly explores the ideologies, issues, methods, and practices that underpin the teaching of life writing subjects and texts in the twenty-first century classroom, and summarises the work included in this special issue.


Black Women and the Biographical Method: Undergraduate Research and Life Writing

Shanna Benjamin, Grinnell College [benjamin@grinnell.edu]

If Black women are compelled to conceal their life stories, as Jane Hine suggests, how can biographers of black women’s lives do justice to their subjects and equip students to undertake this delicate research? My essay uses a student research experience as a case study to teach faculty how to guide student research on the lives of subjects prone to secrecy.

Writing Narratives of Childhood: The Experience of Teaching Hospitalized Children

Maria da Conceição Passeggi, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte [mariapasseggi@gmail.com], Simone Maria da Rocha, Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido [siufrn@gmail.com], and Luciane De Conti, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul [ludeconti@gmail.com]

This article focuses on what have the children tell about their experiences with chronic diseases and coping with hospitalization in their lives. From the autobiographical narratives, we seek to understand what the school contributions in the hospital, from the perspective of children, with a view to a possible education for life.

Multimodal Autobiographies as Sites of Identity Construction in Second-Language Teacher Education

Gergana Vitanova, University of Central Florida [gergana.vitanova@ucf.edu]

This paper outlines a project that explores the role of multimodal storytelling in the construction of second-language teachers’ identities. Specifically, it focuses on the experience of one teacher-in-training. It argues that narrative spaces provide not only the opportunity for reflection, but also function as sites of empowerment and emergent agency.

Autobiography in the Language Classroom

Natalie Edwards, University of Adelaide [natalie.edwards@adelaide.edu.au] and Christopher Hogarth, University of South Australia [christopher.hogarth@unisa.edu.au]

This article examines the ways that autobiography can be used across language curricula. It begins by presenting ways that autobiography can be manipulated in a beginning language course to further students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. It then presents an upper-level course in autobiography, detailing the course content, philosophy and assessment materials.

Embracing the Surface: How to Read a Life Narrative

Jennifer Drake, University of Indianapolis [jdrake@uindy.edu]

To teach life narrative is to teach empathetic practice. This requires teaching students that life narrative employs specific writing techniques. Through the practice of “surface reading,” students can take measure of their suitability for the role of addressee, or ideal listener, and calibrate their encounter with the text from there.

Coming to Life: Teaching Undergraduates to Write Autobiography

Lynn Z. Bloom, University of Connecticut at Storrs, Emeritus [lynn.bloom@uconn.edu]

This paper explains the rationale, theoretical and pedagogical, for teaching contemporary autobiographical writing courses: what applies to autobiography applies as well to autobiographical creative nonfiction and personal essays. This provides a master plan, and summarizes characteristic advice to help students understand the genre and to write with understanding and authority.

The Pedagogical Potential of Memoir in an Interdisciplinary Context

Debra Parker, Illinois State University [debbieparker63@gmail.com]         

This essay examines the memoir as a viable educational tool. Based on a case study of an undergraduate interdisciplinary seminar, I argue that a self-conscious assessment of disciplinary assumptions, a theory of affect, and explicit teaching of life writing principles are important implications for memoir pedagogies.  


Risky Business: Teaching Fails in the Auto/Biography Classroom

Introduction – Kate Douglas and Laurie McNeill

Teaching Life Writing: Four Ways to Fail – Julie Rak, University of Alberta [jrak@ualberta.ca]

Graphic Life Narratives and Teaching the Art of Failure – Candida Rifkind, University of Winnipeg [c.rifkind@uwinnipeg.ca]

Learning with The 500 years of Resistance Comic Book in a Cultural Studies Course – Sarah Brophy, McMaster University [brophys@mcmaster.ca]

‘I Won’t Remember—for You’: What Life-Writing Criticism and Theory Could Bring to the Autobiographical Writing Classroom – Craig Howes, University of Hawai’i at Manoa [craighow@hawaii.edu]

The Life Writing Scholar Cameo Appearance – Anna Poletti, Monash University [anna.poletti@monash.edu]

Book Reviews

Rev. of We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights Eds. Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2014. 313pp. By Kate Douglas.

Rev. of The Treacherous Imagination: Intimacy, Ethics, and Autobiographical Fiction. Robert McGill. Columbus: The Ohio State UP, 2013. 208pp. By Tom Smith, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Emeritus. [trs8@psu.edu]

Rev. of Contemporary Trauma Narratives: Liminality and the Ethics of Form. Eds. Susana Onega and Jean-Michel Ganteau. Routledge, 2014. 264 pp. By Teófilo Espada-Brignoni, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. [t_espada@yahoo.com]