Fall 1999


University Studies 101: Section #92254
5:05P-7:35P M HSS 107

Paul Ashdown
Alvin G. Burstein



This course has multiple objectives: To provide an interdisciplinary study of the nature of life stories, to help students reflect upon their own lives and life choices, to explore the distinction between the social categories of hero and celebrity and to improve students┬╣ writing. Each instructor brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the subject of narrative, while providing insights from the fields of psychology and communications. For example, an autobiography is read, or written, in a cultural and developmental context. Mass media, then, may shape the public perception of the author as a newsworthy figure.

The course begins with a module discussing the difference between life and story, emphasizing the role of meaningful selection in constructing the story of a life. The notion of critical events, changing the course of a life is also introduced.

Following the introduction, students will watch a biographical film every other week.. Intervening sessions are largely devoted to a discussion of the film in the light of the issues initially introduced.

There will be multiple writing assignments. Students will be required to post to a listserv a hundred word reaction to each film. In addition, they will write an autobiography which will be taken through several drafts during the course of the semester, write a biography of famous person whose life they will have to research and write an account of a critical event in the life of an older relative.

Grading for the course will be based on class attendance, active participation in class discussion, and promptness and quality of written assignments.


Lives & Times
Schedule of Readings

Paul Ashdown, Professor of Journalism
Alvin Burstein, Professor of Psychology

Aug 30 Review of syllabus;
The distinction between stories and lives;
assignment of topics
Sept. 13 Magritte and memory;
write a biographical episode
Sept. 20 Clues/discussion
Sept. 27 Shadowlands
first draft of autobiography due
Oct. 4 film
Oct. 11 discussion;
first draft of biography
Oct. 18 film
Oct. 25 discussion;
second draft of autobiography
Nov. 1 film
Nov. 8 discussion;
second draft of biography
Nov. 15 film
Nov. 22 discussion: final papers due
Nov. 29 film
Dec. 6 discussion;
course review