ENG-236: American Autobiography

Liberal Arts
English Literature & Composition
Academic Level
Course Subject
Course Number
Course Title
American Autobiography
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
ENG-131 with a C grade or better (Note: A C- grade is not transferable and is not accepted by some programs at HFC)
Catalog Course Description

Focuses on reading, discussion, and written analysis of published autobiographies, memoirs, personal essays, journals and/or diaries by Americans who have significantly influenced the social, cultural, and political composition of America.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Core Course Topics
  1. Introduction to literary terms and methods of discussing literature.
  2. Introduction to the autobiography and related genres.
  3. The autobiography as a representation of American life.
  4. Reading a selection of autobiographical texts representing the diverse populations and culures that compose American society.
Core Course Learning Objectives (Separated)

Students should be able to accomplish the following:

  1. Formulate an interpretive thesis (as opposed to one which merely reports something factual about a literary text).
  2. Compose an essay which either
  • analyzes a literary text, for example by focusing on literary elements such as theme, character, setting, point of view, plot, imagery, metaphor, symbolism, etc., or
  • analyzes the characteristic themes, features, and / or techniques of a given writer's works, or
  • analyzes more than one literary text by comparing and contrasting works by more than one writer.
  1. Identify a range of key terms that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of literature, particularly autobiographical literature.
  2. Explain how the autobiography evolved over time, from the narrative to the memoir.
  3. Explain the importance and /or distinctive achievement of key writers of autobiographical literature.
General Information

Note that a grade of C- is not transferrable and is not accepted by some programs at HFC

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement


Assessment may include (but need not be limited to) quizzes, class participation, essays, and exams. But assessment must include a minimum of 2,000 words of formal literary analysis.


  1. Students will write at least one out-of-class essay of literary analysis that is at least 1,200 words in length.

  2. Students will take at least one written exam which requires them to analyze literature; whether a single essay or multiple shorter responses, this expository component will count for at least half of the credit for that exam.

General Course Requirements and Recommendations


  1. Students will read substantial and representative autobiographical selections from at least five influential figures in American society, such as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Mouroud Barghouti, William Bradford, Annie Dillard, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Jacobs, Thomas Jefferson, Maxine Hong Kingston, Thomas Paine, Sylvia Plath, Mary Rowlandson, Samuel Sewell, Era Bell Thompson, Henry David Thoreau, John Updike, Booker T. Washington, and Richard Wright.

  2. Students will read a substantial and representative selection of literary texts that explore themes such as gender, social, economic, and political circumstances of two or more racial, ethnic, or religious groups that compose American society.

  3. Students will regularly engage in thoughtful discussion of the assigned readings.

  4. Students will study (through assigned readings and /or classroom discussion) the cultural contexts from which the literature emerges.

  5. Students will study concepts that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of autobiographical literature, such as allegory, anecdote, antagonist/protagonist, biographical experience, captivity narrative, character, conflict, connotation, cultural studies, denotation, dialogue, diary, epistolary, fiction first-person narrator, gender criticism, genre, historical criticism, ideology, image, intiation story, irony, journal, memoir, motif, narrator, nio-fiction novel, oral tradition, plot, satire, style, setting, symbol, theme, third-person narrator, and tone.


  1. Students should learn appropriate biographical information about assigned writers when such information could be helpful in understanding the literature.

  2. Students should take quizzes on assigned readings.

  3. Students should keep a journal in which they record their responses to assigned readings and class discussions.

  4. Students should learn to place the major assigned writers and texts on an historical time line.

  5. Students should satisfactorily read at least one passage aloud, either in class or in the instructor’s office.

  6. Instructors should welcome and support the diverse identities, backgrounds, and academic experience of our students as essential foundations for college community.


General Education Categories
  • Humanities and Fine Arts
Institutional Outcomes
  • Humanities
MTA Categories
  • Category 5: Humanities and Fine Arts

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Fall 2019
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date
Review Semester
Fall 2019