This course examines self-help writing as genre and as cultural phenomenon. From business advice about productivity and entrepreneurship, to instructions on how to dress and decorate so as to reveal your “true self,” to the podcasts that help you to be happier through positive thinking and self love, self help is ubiquitous. We’ll be making self help the object of our study, using the methods of theorists of culture like Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu; we’ll also be looking at a few 19th, 20th or 21st century novels that speak to the intersection of literary and self-help ideas of the self. As a Criticism/Theory/Methodology course, this course will focus both on the theories and methodologies that allow us to analyze and criticize self help, and on the reading techniques that allow us to understand the narrative pleasure self help offers.
Some short (2-3) page written assignments, and two assignments that take the form of podcast episodes—one practicing the genre and one critical analysis—along with brief written rationales for those episodes.