Faculty of Arts


Writing Selves

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ENGLISH 263.


This course throws the terms "self" and "writing" into question. Working with an expanded understanding of the forms and modes that writing may take, and drawing on social semiotic concerns, the course critically explores changing conceptions of the self and examines what ideas of personhood presuppose and entail. Among other things, we consider:

  • the cultural distinctiveness and embeddedness of self-writing practices (eg, biography/autobiography, memoir, self-portraiture, tattoo, scarification)
  • socially and historically specific notions of identity, subjectivity and authorship
  • boundaries and slippages between species and categories (eg, people, animals, places, genres)
  • reproduction, love, memory and affectivity
  • procedures, templates and models
  • the role of digital technologies and programming in the construction and curation of para-selves
  • the university itself as a site for the production of written selves, and the likely future of arts and humanities in a "post-human" era

Films and critical and creative readings form the basis for lectures and tutorials. These set texts are supplemented with materials dealing with a diverse range of objects – from selfies to sexbots to SMS-capable plants. Methodologically, the course seeks to apply concerns drawn from set texts to new objects of inquiry in order to problematise the self-writing practices with which we engage and within which we are immersed. Coursework tasks will invite you to consider writing as a matter of relations that are social, environmental and technological, and will extend your critical-creative skills in reading and composition.

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018




Set films include: 

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (dir. Werner Herzog, 2010)
Her (dir. Spike Jonze, 2013)
Catfish (dirs. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2010)

Set readings are available as PDF files on the Cecil web portal. They include short texts by Vilém Flusser, Donna Haraway, Catherine Malabou, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ani Mikaere, Stephen Muecke, Brian Rotman, Lisa Samuels and Kathleen Stewart.


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 263: 15.0 points


30 points including ENGLISH 121 or ENGWRIT 101, or 30 points in English, or 45 points passed



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