In this class we will explore the genre of autobiographic writing in the United States and its particular relation to identity formation – both individually and nationally. Life writing and its critique underwent significant changes during the 20th and 21st century. From a marginal genre and a largely neglected field of research the autobiography evolved into the epitome of contemporary “western” culture. We will trace this development focusing on the changing understanding of individuality and personhood that it represents. Most importantly we will focus on the uses of this autobiographic genre and its claims to personhood in relation to marginalized groups in their struggle for recognition. Today, the rigid categories of the genre have been dissolved as it includes autobiographies, biographies, diaries, testimonies, and basically all forms of self narration and representation. In this class we will therefore read traditional autobiographies as well as texts more broadly summarized as life writing.