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Assignment #3: Autobiographical Explorations

In Ways of Reading , editors Bartholomae, Petrosky and Waite write

that: “Autobiographical writing is often used for purposes of display or

self-promotion, or to further (rather than question) an argument (about

success, about how to live a good or proper or fulfilling life)” (Bartholomae

et al 694). However, your purpose in this autobiographical writing

assignment is “to investigate, question, explore, and inquire about yourself”

(Bartholomate et al 694) and compose this reflection within an essay or

artistic project for this assignment. If you wish to keep the assignment less

personal and more abstract, you are welcome to consider exploring the topic

of autobiography in general rather than your own personal autobiography.

Please feel free to use stories you have already told in prior essays, about

education, identity, self and society, interconnectivity and any of the prior

readings this semester by Anzaldua, Appiah, Butler, du Bois, Foucault,

Griffin, Miller, Pratt, Rodriguez, Said — in a way that effectively serves your


The required sources for you, regardless of prior units, is to use

Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life , and/or Alison Bechdel’s first chapter,

titled “The Ordinary Devoted Mother” from her graphic novel, Are You My

Mother? , and/or Gloria Bird’s “Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of

Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation?” as models, examples of formats of

the genre of autobiography, as you explore yourself or the format

possibilities of the genre of autobiography.
Writing and reading are major themes in Bechdel’s work. There’s the

story of Bechdel writing the very work we are reading. There is her

journaling, there is her mother’s journaling, and Bechdel’s references

to writers like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. So one way of reading

“The Ordinary Devoted Mother” is to understand the piece as being

about reading and writing – and perhaps also about the life of the

mind. Akin to this is Linklater’s exploration of different theories and

perspectives of individuals that the main character comes into contact

with in the various scenes of this extended dream sequence. Both

could be said to be focused on the life of the mind. If you think of the

pieces as being about the work of reading and writing, what does

Bechdel seem to suggest about what writing does, where it comes

from, and what it is for? What is Bechdel’s philosophy on reading and

writing as far as you can tell? What does her work tell you about this

process? Write a minimum of 3 pages in which you offer Bechdel’s

theory of composition, making an argument for how Bechdel

understands the creative process of writing. Compare it to Waking Life

and your own life as you see fit. You must write a minimum of 3 full

pages in MLA format for this assignment.

Bird, Gloria. “Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation”.  
Bechdel, Alison. “The Ordinary Devoted Mother”.  

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