Paper 1

Paper #1: Autobiography


About Your Readers:

In this class, we have discussed the importance of making your readers care about your "problems," and therefore your essays. So, before you begin to plan and write your first paper, you should know a few things about your readers (i.e., your classmates and your teacher):



1) They are familiar with the text that you are writing about.

2) They do not need a summary of this text.

3) They want to understand better how this text functions as an autobiography.

4) They do not need an analysis of episodes or events in the text, except when these episodes allow you to comment on the text as an autobiography.




About Your Assignment:

Select one of the questions on the back of this page. These questions should be familiar — they have been pulled from your e-mails and our class discussions about Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood and Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. You may have addressed one of these questions in one of your introductions. If so, you may continue to write on that question.

In a 3-4 page paper, you should answer the question that you have selected. This paper should have a one-paragraph introduction, in which you lay out the status quo, the question, the consequences of answering or not answering the question, and your answer to the question (your thesis). In the body of your essay, you should develop the question and your answer to it, using concrete examples from the text(s) to support your answer/ thesis. Your conclusion, as we have discussed in class, should mirror your introduction.


Your introduction will be due on Wednesday 9/19.

Your paper will be due on Monday 9/24.


Questions for Paper #1:

1) Is Mary McCarthy a reliable narrator? How does her reliability, or lack thereof, impact her autobiography?

2) What is the function of the "To the Reader" portion of McCarthy’s autobiography? What connects it to the rest of her text?

3) Why does McCarthy choose this form for her autobiography? (You will first need to define the form of her text.)

4) What role does memory play in McCarthy’s autobiography? How does memory affect her text?

5) How and what does McCarthy’s discussion(s) of Catholicism contribute to her autobiography?

6) Why does Nick Hornby base his whole autobiography on football?

7) How does Hornby structure his narrative? Why does he choose this form for his autobiography?

8) How does Hornby think of time and how does this affect his life and, more importantly, his text?

9) What role does memory play in Hornby’s book? How does memory affect his autobiography?

10) How does Hornby discuss his personal life? How large a part does his personal life play in his autobiography?

11) When compared to hooks and McCarthy, and their respective texts, why is Hornby so much more reliable as a narrator?

12) The relationship between the author and the author’s memories varies from McCarthy to Hornby. How do their autobiographies reflect this difference?

13) hooks talked about the problem of "secrecy" in her essay "writing autobiography." How do McCarthy and/ or Hornby treat this issue?

14) How do the purposes of McCarthy’s and Hornby’s texts differ? How do these differences impact the forms, styles, and/ or themes of their autobiographies?

Note: Remember that each of these questions represents a conceptual problem — a problem that destabilizes our minds. Do not try to turn these conceptual problems into tangible or pragmatic problems. These problems will not be problems for all possible readers, but rather for our small community of readers. The consequences will involve costs to or benefits for our understanding of the autobiographies we have read so far this semester.