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Campus offering

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10 cp from 200-level unit in Literature or English

Unit rationale, description and aim

As an advanced scholar in the field of literary studies, it is vital to understand the broad and increasingly popular field of life writing, and the theories that underpin it. Life writing includes the literary genres and forms that writers adopt in their attempt to represent the individual self as well as theoretical works about approach and craft. Works studied may include diaries, autobiography, memoir, testimonies, life narratives such as biography or other literary forms where appropriate from a range of contexts. The unit will explore the history of autobiographical writing and consider the role of narrative constructions in selfhood and techniques used by writers to convey that self in their chosen genre or form. The aim of this unit is to provide students with opportunities to creatively explore the relationship between the self and story.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate broad and deep knowledge of the field of life writing and apply this to a variety of life writing texts in order to generate interpretations (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)  

LO2 - Devise, develop and communicate complex ideas and concepts in life writing to a specified audience using both critical and creative approaches including audio, digital, oral, visual or written form as appropriate (GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10) 

LO3 - Locate, interpret and appropriately reference a range of texts and critical resources and use them to sustain a nuanced evidence-based argument in a self-devised project (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9) 

LO4 -  Critically analyse evidence and synthesise scholarship on life writing according to the methodological and ethical conventions of the discipline (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA10) 

LO5 - Critically analyse key concepts in life writing and recognise and reflect on the significance of complex literary texts in imagining and interpreting the world over time (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8).  

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • History and theory of life writing  
  • Concepts of identity and subjectivity 
  • The ethics of self-revelation 
  • Life writing forms such as autobiography, memoir, biography   
  • Craft, ‘voice’ and dialect in writing about the self 
  • Authenticity and fake ‘memoirs’ 
  • Cultural, social and historical notions of identity, subjectivity and authorship including those relevant to Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and world Indigenous peoples.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students in this unit will gain a deep knowledge of the field of life writing, its history and theoretical frameworks associated with it. This will involve close critical study of representative examples drawn from autobiography, memoir, biography or other autobiographically-derived genres, as well as scholarship about life writing. 

Students’ understanding of this popular field will be developed by close textual study of a range of significant works in order to deepen their level of analysis of forms and structures in life writing. They will gain knowledge of literary technique and context, and develop an understanding of issues of authenticity and voice in writing. This unit aims to enhance students’ understanding of the nuances of creative and critical writing in ‘reading and writing the self’ and creative reflection on the broader issues of ethics in life writing. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

In this 300-level literature unit students are expected to demonstrate the capacity for self-motivated and independent learning in researching, critically analysing and communicating key issues in life writing, and other autobiographical forms. Assessments are designed to assess knowledge of forms and deeper understanding of critical issues within this field of study. 

The assessment tasks have been scaffolded and provide variety, in order to develop and measure the different learning outcomes of the unit. They have been structured to ensure that the student gains advanced knowledge and skills in the academic study of life writing as well as the opportunity to research and reflect on that knowledge. 

The reflective task allows students to reflect and respond to topics in the unit. The research task builds on the first task and allows students to deepen their knowledge by researching and evaluating a text or texts, within the context of scholarship about their chosen topic. This gives them the opportunity to display sophisticated skills in applying literary theoretical concepts to an interpretation of a particular work. 

The summative task provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their capacity to think broadly about issues raised in the unit, and to integrate their understanding of those issues into a fluent reflective commentary. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reflective Task

Students will be assessed on their ability to reflect and respond to topics covered in the unit.


LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9,  

Research Task  

Students will undertake a substantial research task which may involve formulating a topic proposal. They will undertake research and evaluate ideas through critical thinking and writing.


LO1, LO2, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, 


Summative Task  

Students will demonstrate a breadth of knowledge of ideas, concepts and writing practices studied in this unit.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5,  GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Boldrini, Lucia and Novak, Julia, Experiments in Life-writingIntersections of Auto/biography and Fiction. Palgrave, 2017. 

Brien, Donna Lee, and Eades, Quinn. Offshoot: Contemporary Life Writing Methodologies and Practice. Uwap Scholarly, 2018. 

Hollars, B.J., (ed). Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction. University of Nebraska Press, 2013.  

Lee, Hermoine. Body Parts: Essays on Life Writing. Pimlico, 2010 (e-Book). 

Lidstrom Brock, Malin. Writing Feminist Lives: The Biographical Battles over Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Simone de Beauvoir (Breaking Feminist Waves). Palgrave, 2019.  

Magedera, Ian H. Outsider Biographies: Savage, de Sade, Wainewright, Ned Kelly, Billy the Kid, Rimbaud and Genet: Base Crime and High Art in Biography and Bio-fiction. Rodopi, 2014. 

Poletti, Anna and Rak, Julie (eds). Constructing the Self Online. University of Wisconsin Press, 2014. 

Rak, Julie. Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market. University of Wilfred Laurier Press, 2013. 

Schmidt, Silke. (Re-)framing the Arab/Muslim: Mediating Orientalism in Contemporary American Life Writing. Bielefeld, 2014. 

Whitlock, Gillian. Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions. Oxford University Press, 2015. 

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