What is a “life” when it’s written down? How does memory inform the present? Why are autobiographies and memoirs so popular? This course will address these questions and others, considering the relationship between biography, autobiography, and memoir and between personal and social themes. We will examine classic authors such as Benjamin Franklin, Mary Rowlandson, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Mark Twain; then more recent examples like Tobias Wolff, Art Spiegelman, Sherman Alexie, Alison Bechdel, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, or Edwidge Danticat.