Profiles and Portraits


In this course, students will write profiles and create audio and video portraits based on interviews. During the first semester, students will learn techniques of oral-history interviewing and will go on to conduct a series of fieldwork interviews. These interviews should inspire a variety of written responses and approaches, including fiction, memoir, and autobiographical writing. The major part of our work will take place at and around Hour Children, a Queens-based organization that provides support for women who have recently been released from prison; students will conduct one-on-one interviews with residents of Hour Children. This work will culminate in a series of written profiles, as well as a performance based on the women’s own firsthand testimony. The performance, which will take place at Sarah Lawrence, will feature professional actors and will be open to the public. During the second semester, students will conduct additional interviews and further research in order to broaden the range of possible written responses to the material. Students will also collaborate with the women of Hour Children in writing and producing a series of audio and video portraits. These portraits, along with student conference work, will be presented in an end-of-year multimedia event. There will be weekly reading and writing assignments. Writers on the syllabus include Clarice Lispector, Nawal el Saadawdi, Katherine Boo, Theodore Rosengarten, and Orhan Pamuk. Students will also read and discuss the work of their classmates.