Beginning with a careful reading of Joan Didion’s “On Self-Respect” (1961), and through ongoing considerations of other personal essays, this advanced writing course asks students to reckon with the essential value of their own mind—their thinking—in developing a narrative voice that can develop over a lifetime. In light of what’s been called the “radical critique of interiority and autonomy” carried out by much of literary theory, this course makes an effort to revalue the self at the heart of self-respect. We ask: What happens when we hand our thoughts over to our voice? Why do we believe what we believe? Do we have the courage—even the “courage of our mistakes,” as Didion writes—to sound like ourselves? Students will be required to write three personal essays, one that draws evidence primarily from their lives, one that engages critically with texts, and a third that situates the writer in the midst of a social, cultural, or political movement or issue. Readings will include the scholar Lisa Ruddick (quoted above), and essayists Leslie Jamison, Zora Neale Hurston, Zadie Smith, Cheryl Strayed, Francine Prose, and Marilynne Robinson, among others.