University of Iowa

Writing the Line between Autobiography and Fiction

Instructor: 
Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020

In 1977, French novelist Serge Doubrovsky came up with the term “autofiction” to describe his novel, Fils. Exactly what autofiction is has been hotly debated, first in France and later in the U.S. and U.K. Autofiction is not simply another name for autobiographical fiction. Depending on who’s using the term and in what context, autofiction might come close to what some writers term memoir, or it might come closer to the ironic metafictional treatments of Self popularized by such writers in the 1960’s and 70’s as Kurt Vonnegut and John Barth and more recently, Ben Lerner and Michael Chabon. In this short course, we will sample it all, reading and writing “Fiction of strictly real events or facts” as well as fantastical and allegorical representations of ourselves, using much of our real biographical information, but not much else. If you like the idea of exploring writing that takes you to an exciting but sometimes uncomfortable spot between real and imagined versions of yourself, then this is the course for you.

 

Before we meet in Iowa City, I will make available to you several examples of different types of autofiction, but there will be no writing in advance of the workshop. You can expect to write in class exercises as well as approximately 500 words a day outside of the workshop.

 

In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments.

Fiction
Hybrid Forms
Memoir
Nonfiction