A Spring Course of Potential Interest

by Carrie Hintz

IDS 81630 – Life Writing: The Art of Biography

GC: T, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Annalyn Swan


This course will be a sustained look at what makes biography, at its best, a genre that combines the strength of both non-fiction and fiction – the precision of historical and biographical scholarship with the insight and thrust of a good novel. As literary genres go, biography has always been something of a stepchild – and understandably so. Far too many people approach writing biography as a nuts-and-bolts recitation of a person’s life. But the best biography is as different from this pedestrian approach as Jane Austen is to pulp fiction. Great biography tells the tale with panache, in short, while building on painstaking research and analysis. The course will explore the biographer’s (and autobiographer’s) craft through a range of subjects and styles. It will also provide students the opportunity to write a biographical introduction to, or chapter about, a person who fascinates them. Annalyn Swan is co-author, with Mark Stevens, of de Kooning: An American Master, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.