CoursesTestimony: Life-writing as Dialogue
COML 0522

Testimony: Life-writing as Dialogue

This hybrid literature/creative writing course centers on the genre of testimony as a form of life-writing and self-making that is fundamentally dialogic; that is, dependent on what Dori Laub calls “a listening other” to be fully realized.

We will consider the concept and practice of testimony through three intersecting avenues. First, we will explore the multivalent critical theory of testimony, drawing from a range of disciplines including memory and trauma studies; human rights scholarship and activism; feminist philosophy; queer theory; disability studies; and more. Second, we will read and analyze contemporary testimony in a variety of genres, produced by people of diverse identities and experiences from around the world. Third, we will write and share in community our own series of short testimonies, learning and practicing critical skills for this particular form of dialogic practice that are transferable beyond the course, including: deep listening, self- and other-awareness, and the capacity to embrace the other’s enduring strangeness and incomprehensibility while still recognizing their humanity.

Importantly, this is not a traditional writing workshop with peer review and revision cycles. While attention to craft is part of the testimonial process, the focus here is on sharing and receiving personal narratives without critique of craft. The course is open to all majors, and no particular “talent” or identity as a writer is required. This is an SNF Paideia designated course.