Fall 2008

True Confessions: Gender, Sexuality, Autobiography


Amanda A. Walling (Section 01)


This course will explore how a wide range of autobiographical or pseudo-autobiographical narratives have used concepts of gender and sexuality to define the self. In particular, we will consider the idea of confession: how individuals represent their lives through the lens of their own sins, crimes, and secrets. In the first part of the course, we will consider autobiographical accounts of unrequited love, pregnancy, cross-dressing, and sexual deviancy from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment by such authors as Dante Alighieri, Margery Kempe, Catalina de Erauso, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, paying particular attention to the importance of gender and sexuality for different representations of selfhood. In the latter part of the course, we will turn to works of fiction by such authors as Arthur Schnitzler, Gertrude Stein, and Vladimir Nabokov that use the conventions of confession and autobiography to structure their own challenges to the role of the author, their reflections on the nature of the self, and the problems of giving voice to characters across the lines of gender and sexual orientation. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Walling.