FLOR 3017W: The Traveling Self: Writing Autobiography in Italy & Florence

3 CreditsWriting Intensive

“I did not then represent to myself towns, landscapes, monuments, as pictures more or less attractive, cut out here and there of a substance that was common to them all, but looked on each of them as on an unknown thing, essentially different from all the rest, a thing for which my soul thirsted and which it would benefit from knowing.” (Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way. In Search of Lost Time. Volume 1) “What I write about myself is never the last word: the more ‘sincere’ I am, the more interpretable I am.” (R. Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, trans. R. Howard, McMillan, London 1977) Travel experience in Italy has been for centuries an inspirational path for writers, novelists, and journalists from all over the world. The deep history and the most significant places in this relevant European country—connected both to the Northern cultures and at the crossroads with the Mediterranean ones—has prompted new narrative strategies, peculiar fictional characters, and innovative plots. Authors have been travelling the country by different means of transportation—carriages, trains, but also on foot—that have influenced their perspectives. They have walked into churches, squares, gardens, and museums to explore a flourishing collection of symbols and values from the past and to foresee the complexity of the future of Western civilization. They have tasted delicious and repellent flavors in Italian markets, shops, and restaurants and discussed Italian society and its issues. They have changed their personal mindsets, exploring new maps of their own cultural identity. Traveling abroad has always been, in fact, an experience of enrichment, enhancement, and transformation of a traveler’s identity and intimate self. Starting from this assumption, this creative writing course will use the narrative strategies offered by modern and contemporary autobiography to draw inspiration from the students’ Italian and European travel experience. At the same time, a “classic” field in literature and a flourishing contemporary trend, the genre of autobiography defies categories. It allows us to experiment with innovative forms—from diary to travelogue, from literary nonfiction to the so-called “autofiction”—that are also currently evolving under the influence of the social networks and the possibilities of augmented experience offered by the Web.

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