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ANG718 - Life Writing and Cultural Memory / Récits autobiographiques et mémoire culturelle



2e cycle
3 crédits
Faculté ou centre
Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

Cible(s) de formation

To give an overview of theories of collective and individual memory: that is definitions and discussions of cultural, social, commemorative, and personal memory, and speculation about how these various forms of memory overlap and cross-fertilize each other.

To explore how the genres of autobiography, oral history, and other forms of life writing shape memories of people, classes, and nations through their particular conventions, traditions, and assumptions. In other words, we will explore how these genres shape rather than merely hold memories (Kadar, Buss, Neuman, Lionnet, Olney, Lejeune, and others).

To compare and contrast the positioning of self, nation, and community in works by French and English Canadian writers. This will entail study of the subject of particular works and how individual identity is remembered in relation to collective identity.

To understand how particular works may defy or bend conventions of life writing for their own purposes, namely to write the cultural specificity of their own past.

To consider the cultural politics of cultural memory and read life writing as a memory act. To recognize that cultural memory is contested field and sometimes a moral discourse which vies for credibility with its version of the past. We will discuss the aesthetics and the cultural politics of particular pieces of life writing under consideration.


This course explores interdisciplinary theories of cultural memory and asks how self, family, community, and nation are remembered in life writing in Canada. Drawing on works about cultural memory by Paul Connerton, Doris Sommer, Mieke Bal, Elizabeth Tonkins, Dori Laub, Jan Assman, and others, we will study how individual and collective memories are transmitted through personal autobiographies, testimonio, transcribed oral histories, and other forms of life writing. We will interrogate how life writing as a memory act may serve as a site of counter-memory (for example, of working-class culture, feminism, counter-nationalism, regionalism, minority ethnicity, anarchy, and so on) in French and English Canadian culture. At the same time, we will ask how life writing may constitute a performance of remembering and forgetting that reproduces collective identity across generations.