Our memories and experiences—our personal contexts—are not just mysterious, invisible
nebulas floating somewhere in our brains. In fact, life writing theory tells us that what we
remember is irrevocably linked to our bodies: our memories are tied to what we see, smell, taste,
touch, and hear.
Since we remember things in sensory contexts, we also conceptualize ourselves, others, and
our physical surroundings in sensory terms. This is evident in the way we use language to relay
our memories and explain ourselves to others.
Our goals in Unit 1 are as follows:
To explore our personal contexts—the collection of things that make us who we [think]
we are—and how these contexts influence how we think, feel, relate to others, and act in
To investigate the relationship between memory, identity, and space in terms of how
we conceptualize ourselves
To analyze how we use language to produce and reproduce affect, or subjectively-
experienced feelings through various reading and writing exercises
To experiment with narrative and sequence in writing to produce and reproduce affect
To play with elements like dialogue, flashback, and others to produce a cohesive,
You are asked to write a piece of creative nonfiction about a subject I hope you know well:
yourself. Your finished piece should be no less than 1000 words and no more than 1250 words.
The topical focus of your piece should be a pivotal embodied memory: an experience from
your past so vivid that you can almost or actually see/smell/taste/touch/hear it in your mind if
you try—something that changed you somehow forever. The experience you share through
writing can be negative, positive, or neutral, but keep in mind that you will be sharing what you
write with the rest of the class. Make sure you are comfortable doing so.
Your piece should reproduce this memory for the rest of us as vividly as possible, so it will be
crucial for you to effectively use descriptive language to reproduce your inner world during this
experience, but also your outer world (the setting).
Memories like these typically have deep and long-lasting implications for us in the present, even
if we may not immediately realize it. If we can remember something this vividly, we must then
ask ourselves, “Why?” What importance did this experience hold for you? How has this piece of
your personal context shaped or influenced who you are today? How does this memory serve
you? Or conversely, how does it fail to serve you?