Autofiction: novels from life

Course Dates: 05/10/21 - 09/11/21
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Location: Online
Life stories or novels? In recent years the term ‘autofiction’ has described the work of novelists whose material is, explicitly, their own life. This course reads a selection of fascinating novels which experiment to combine memoir, personal experience and invention. We’ll explore different styles of autofiction, ideas about this tricky and controversial category of writing, and our own responses to it as readers. We will think too about some of the ethical and cultural questions that autofiction raises.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
In stock
Full fee £89.00 Senior fee £89.00 Concession £54.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT250

Started Tue, eve, 05 Oct - 09 Nov '21

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

We will look closely at three novels to explore ‘autofiction’ and our experience of reading it:

Jenny Offill, Dept of Speculation (2104)
Sheila Heti, How Should A Person Be? (2014)
Rachel Cusk, Outline (2015)

We’ll look at these striking novels, and extracts from other writers including Zinzi Clemmons and Karl Ove Knausgaard, to investigate what kind of writing autofiction is and how we respond to it as readers. We will think about whether, when we know that a novel’s material is the novelist’s life, this changes how we read it. We’ll consider the different stories these novels present about their writers’ lives, and the questions they ask us to think about as readers.

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.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

This course will encourage you to think about different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs and autobiographies, the expectations we have of these as readers and where autofiction fits in. We will look closely at the form and style of these three novels and how these affect our reading. Alongside this we’ll think too about autofiction in the context of contemporary culture. We’ll cover topics that include: reality TV and reality novels; right of reply; why autofiction has appeared to be such a white genre; autofiction by men and women writers; and opinions about autofiction from the enthusiastic to the hostile.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

By the end of this course you should be able to:

• Discuss these novels confidently, with an extended knowledge of autofiction as an idea and as a topic of literary and cultural study
• Discuss ideas about novels’ forms and narrative techniques
• Draw on ideas about autofiction to enhance your future reading.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

You need to have an enthusiasm for reading contemporary fiction, listening to others and participating in discussions. You don’t need to have studied literature formally.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a variety of teaching, including informal talks, small group and whole group discussion, close reading and working with additional material including video clips. Guided by the tutor, the focus will be on participation and interaction, with opportunities each week for you to share responses and ideas.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Jenny Offill, Dept of Speculation (Granta, 2104)
Sheila Heti, How Should A Person Be? (Vintage, 2014)
Rachel Cusk, Outline (Vintage, 2015)

Links will be provided to other reading and class materials.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other literature courses under History, Culture & Writing/Literature at

Kate Wilkinson

Dr Kate Wilkinson teaches English literature and has a particular interest in twenty-first-century novels. Since 2015 she has taught at Queen Mary University of London, on courses ranging from Middle English to cultural theory. Her PhD and publications explore the vibrant life of letters in fiction, and what this can tell us about our contemporary world.

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.