Biography writing: an introduction
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HW470
Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course will help you develop a critical awareness of this genre of writing, to think about what makes a good biography. Classes are designed for anyone who enjoys learning more about writers' lives, and about how we describe, explore and write about the experiences of other people. You'll develop confidence in using this knowledge to attempt your own experiments in life writing.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
- Definitions of biography, autobiography and memoir.
- An abridged history of English biography.
- Ethics of biography.
- Biographical techniques and method.
- The use of sources, memory and recollection in life writing.
- The uses of biography and its limitations as a way of understanding writers.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Think critically and intelligently about what biographies are for and why we read them.
- Understand the leading features of a very important genre of writing and how biographies are put together.
- Feel more confident about making your own experiments in life writing.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course requires no specific qualifications other than a keen interest in literature and in reading and writing. It would not suit anyone who does not have a good level of spoken and written English.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Teaching will be by tutor-led discussion, small group discussion, and each session will include a writing exercise. Short homework writing exercises and optional reading lists will be given each week.
All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.
For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.
City Lit Writing endeavours to create a safe and welcoming space for all and we strongly support the use of content notes in our classes. This means that learners are encouraged to make their tutor and classmates aware in advance if any writing they wish to share contains material that may be deemed sensitive. If you are unsure about what might constitute sensitive content, please ask your tutor for further clarification and read our expectations for participating in writing courses at City Lit.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please bring writing materials. If you'd like to prepare yourself, the best single introduction is Hermione Lee's 'Biography, A Very Short Introduction' (Oxford University Press) but there are no set text books. Weekly handouts will be provided.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
All students are invited to join us at Late Lines, our regular performance night for City Lit writers. Students are also encouraged to submit their work to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of creative writing. For the latest news, courses and events, stay in touch with the Department on Facebook and Twitter.
Professor Robert Fraser has published a number of biographies of modern British poets, as well as critical works on authors as diverse as Marcel Proust and the anthropologist Sir James Frazer. He has also written memoir, much journalism and performed plays on the lives of Dr. Johnson, Byron and D.H. Lawrence. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and is currently Professor Emeritus of the Open University.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.