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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5346M So Where do you come from? Selves, Families, Stories

30 creditsClass Size: 19

Module manager: Dr Jay Prosser

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

As for MA programme

Module replaces

Themes and Perspectives in Contemporary America

This module is not approved as an Elective


- To introduce students to contemporary family memoirs.
- To read memoirs particularly in an American context.
- To help students produce creative writing related to memoirs.

Learning outcomes
Knowledge Outcomes:
- Introductory knowledge of contemporary family memoirs
- Understanding of their place in American culture
- Ability to recognise and model creatively some of the techniques of contemporary memoirs.

Skills outcomes
Autobiography criticism; American Studies; creative writing.

Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms.


Stories of selfhood and family abound. Culturally we are fascinated by real lives, by where we and others have come from; by tales of selves’ arrival, departure, transformation and return – whether written by presidents, pop stars, abused kids or great writers. This module engages with the phenomenon of self-accounting and family genealogy by reading some of the best of recent writing. Centred on the American scene as possibly the crucible for this fascination with ‘where you come from,’ the texts that we read nevertheless all travel out of the US, making – indeed showing as inextricable – connections between the US and the rest of the world. Our set texts span geographies, histories, intimacies. A first-generation Chinese American struggles to negotiate her present through her past; an African American woman searches for her slave ancestor on the west coast of Africa; a Holocaust descendant returns to Eastern Europe to find out what really happened to the missing family; an established writer composes for her dying daughter an urgent family history of their centrality in Chilean upheavals; a daughter writes with disturbingly unapologetic eloquence of her incestuous relationship with her father; a gay man tells his quest for self and sexuality. As the module is focused on memoir writing techniques, we will attend to how these writers write, isolating recurrent memoir techniques such as reflecting on a photograph, deploying a letter, reconstructing a conversation or interview, using the family tree, the motif of the journey, seaming in myth, fairytale or other cultural story, and character portraiture. We will also consider the necessity for fiction in such nonfiction, and digest some of the classic and latest critical work from the field of biography studies. The module will allow students to model and innovate what they learn from their reading in order to create their own story of self and/or family. The module is taught by a tutor who is currently completing his own family memoir. Students will be invited to engage with his work, both published and unpublished.

Priority for places on this module will be given to students on the MA Creative Writing & Critical Life programme.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours279.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

- Reading of set texts
- Research of secondary material
- Maintaining weekly writer's workbook (weeks 1-6 only) in response to materials and module
- Practising of memoir writing techniques and producing drafts.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Oral presentation by student
- Tutor’s response to writer’s workbook
- Meeting with tutor to discuss module and assessment
- Formal assessment (critical and creative).

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Written Work1 x 2,500 word family memoir50.00
Written WorkWriter's workbook of 1,500 words, 250 each week (weeks 1-6 only)50.00
Presentation1x 20 minute presentation, once in semester0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/08/2023 12:47:52


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