Assignment #3: Autobiographical Explorations
In Ways of Reading , editors Bartholomae, Petrosky and Waite write
that: “Autobiographical writing is often used for purposes of display or
self-promotion, or to further (rather than question) an argument (about
success, about how to live a good or proper or fulfilling life)” (Bartholomae
et al 694). However, your purpose in this autobiographical writing
assignment is “to investigate, question, explore, and inquire about yourself”
(Bartholomate et al 694) and compose this reflection within an essay or
artistic project for this assignment. If you wish to keep the assignment less
personal and more abstract, you are welcome to consider exploring the topic
of autobiography in general rather than your own personal autobiography.
Please feel free to use stories you have already told in prior essays, about
education, identity, self and society, interconnectivity and any of the prior
readings this semester by Anzaldua, Appiah, Butler, du Bois, Foucault,
Griffin, Miller, Pratt, Rodriguez, Said — in a way that effectively serves your
The required sources for you, regardless of prior units, is to use
Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life , and/or Alison Bechdel’s first chapter,
titled “The Ordinary Devoted Mother” from her graphic novel, Are You My
Mother? , and/or Gloria Bird’s “Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of
Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation?” as models, examples of formats of
the genre of autobiography, as you explore yourself or the format
possibilities of the genre of autobiography.
Writing and reading are major themes in Bechdel’s work. There’s the
story of Bechdel writing the very work we are reading. There is her
journaling, there is her mother’s journaling, and Bechdel’s references
to writers like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. So one way of reading
“The Ordinary Devoted Mother” is to understand the piece as being
about reading and writing – and perhaps also about the life of the
mind. Akin to this is Linklater’s exploration of different theories and
perspectives of individuals that the main character comes into contact
with in the various scenes of this extended dream sequence. Both
could be said to be focused on the life of the mind. If you think of the
pieces as being about the work of reading and writing, what does
Bechdel seem to suggest about what writing does, where it comes
from, and what it is for? What is Bechdel’s philosophy on reading and
writing as far as you can tell? What does her work tell you about this
process? Write a minimum of 3 pages in which you offer Bechdel’s
theory of composition, making an argument for how Bechdel
understands the creative process of writing. Compare it to Waking Life
and your own life as you see fit. You must write a minimum of 3 full
pages in MLA format for this assignment.
Bird, Gloria. “Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation”.
Bechdel, Alison. “The Ordinary Devoted Mother”.
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