This page focuses on the course 21L.512 American Authors: Autobiography and Memoir as it was taught by Dr. Wyn Kelley in Fall 2013.
The course covered American authors and specifically focused on “life” when it is written down as autobiographies or memoirs. The course addressed the relationship between biography, autobiography, memoir, and between personal and social themes as well as considering how memory informs the present and why these works are so popular. The texts included classic authors and more recent examples.
Course Goals for Students
Some of the texts come very close to fiction or are fictional, but are still based on the author’s life. The goal of the class was to identify and discuss fact versus fiction using a series of fluid texts.
Dr. Kelley provides extensive insights into how she taught another course 21L.501 The American Novel: Stranger and Stranger, which includes pages on:
- Motivation and Organization of the Course
- Choice of Novels
- Digital Tools
- Additional Class Features
- Teaching at MIT
One previous literature course or permission of the instructor.
This course on American authors is taught every second fall semester, though the focus and texts have changed with each iteration. Examples of past focus topics included American Trilogies, Classics Remixed, and American Women Authors.
The students’ grades were based on the following activities:
- 10% Attendance
- 15% Class participation
- 15% In-class reports
- 60% Essay assignments; four essays worth 15% each
Fewer than 10 students
Breakdown by Year
Primarily juniors and seniors.
Breakdown by Major
A range of majors.
Typical Student Background
This is an intermediate level class, so students have had some experience with college writing and exposure to at least one introductory or survey-level course.
How Student Time Was Spent
During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:
- Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance
- Discussion of texts and specific factual or fictional passages
- In-class student presentations
Out of Class
- Reading of texts
- Completion of essay assignments