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Unit Overview


Autobiography is the meeting place of memory and language. In this unit students consider how they might shape their experiences into stories. Students may write memoir, journals or the autobiographical essay in order to encode explorations of their own experiences in a form that connects with a wider readership. During workshops students consider the specific problems of autobiography including methods of structuring an account of the self in a manner that another person might find interesting, the ethics of disclosure, the status of objective truth and the writer's willingness and capacity to represent what we might think of as unembellished truth. Students are also required to read autobiographical writing in order to learn from the tactics of established writers. They do so within distinct sub-genres of autobiographical writing—narratives of self-realisation, of childhood, family, love, illness, trauma, travel and migration illustrate a range of autobiographical styles, while providing inspiration for student's own autobiographical work.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) shape personal experience into writing which is of interest to a wider readership; (2) deploy narrative strategies to do with suspense, partial disclosure and selective characterisation which are common to fiction and to autobiographical writing; (3) understand that the distinction between fiction and autobiography is not always easy to make and that all narrative requires a persuasive use of craft; (4) be aware of the forms that autobiographical narrative may take such as journal work, essay, letters; (5) be aware of the common topics of autobiographical narrative such as accounts of childhood, family, love, illness, trauma, travel and migration, and be aware of certain eminent practitioners of autobiographical narrative; (6) work with an understanding of the ethical constraints of writing about identifiable individuals; (7) experience the practical conjunction between memory and narrative form and share work and commentary on work in draft form with other writers; (8) express original ideas, together with research methodologies, approaches and findings, coherently and logically in oral and written formats; (9) undertake and present research in groups efficiently and creatively, and to offer and respond to feedback appropriately; (10) locate, assess and engage critically with research findings, both individually and in groups; (11) demonstrate an awareness of the importance of informing and challenging one's independent analyses and ideas with discriminating reading of imaginative, critical and theoretical texts; (12) apply, knowingly and appropriately, highly developed skills of textual analysis, critical reasoning, interpretation and research; (13) interpret texts from a range of cultural genres independently, confidently and appropriately through developed modes of close reading and writing that encourage personal and critically informed engagement and expression; and (14) apply developed skills in independent enquiry-based research, leading towards an informed understanding of, and ethical sensitivity towards, our diverse and globalised world in the context of advanced further studies and/or future career paths.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) workshop participation; (2) outline of writing plan; and (3) folio and commentary. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Brenda Walker and Associate Professor Alison Bartlett
Unit rules
any Level 2 ENGL unit
or EURO2209 Utopia, Imagination and Modernity in European Culture
ENGL2260 Myself and the Aliens
Contact hours
3 hours per teaching week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.