In Reality Hunger , David Shields provocatively proposes that “only the suspect artist starts from art; the true artist draws his material elsewhere: from himself.” In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore and tackle the production of what has been termed “autotheory,” the intersection of autobiography and theory, the generic blurring of lyrical essay, rigorous, often scholarly-inflected, argument, and memoir/novel. Our focus will be the sometimes direct, sometimes complicated, typically ambiguous relationship between art and life, as we investigate how art reveals (and conceals) the effects of race, gender, sexuality, and politics in the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. How do the ways in which we aspire to live actually relate to the ways in which we do? How is personal experience (inflected by social, political, historical circumstances, as it must necessarily be) self-consciously and deliberately transformed into (timeless) art? How does self-representation engage with notions of truth and authenticity? How might our lived experiences help us approach and make sense of theory and philosophy, of art itself? And, if every artist, as Zola had it, is more or less a realist according to his own eyes, how can art help us approach reality? Readings may include work by Maggie Nelson, Ben Lerner, Patti Smith, Art Spiegelman, Roland Barthes, Andy Warhol, Alison Bechdel, and David Foster Wallace. We will also consider works by artists like Gillian Wearing, Sophie Calle, Louise Bourgeois, Zachary Drucker, Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon, and Nan Goldin.