W. Wells Brown’s autobiography.


Marie Jo

  • This text is about a slave escaping from the South who goes to Canada where slavery was abolished in 1834.


  • W. Wells Brown was born in 1814. For 12  or 15 days he stayed at his friend and recovered from a cold. He chose the same name as his Quaker friend. He travelled from Ohio to Cleveland and finally to Canada where he became a lecturer and a famous abolitionist.
  • In 1843 he joined the New York Anti-slavery society and in 1847 he published his autobiography thanks to which he stood up for African American’s rights to freedom.
  • He died in 1884.

William Wells Brown decide to honour his roots so he keeps his first name William but he adds the family name of his Quaker friend Wells Brown.

He was around 20 or 30 years old when he escaped.

He is adventurous, determined, fearless and bold.

His Quaker friend was helpful so he doesn’t hate white people.

Instead of criticizing White people, he stands up against slavery.

He writes his autobiography so that history doesn’t repeat itself.


Reacting / vocab by NourEddine, Imane & Camille 

  • to relate to = to echo / mirror: correspond to / avor des points communs avec 
  • a witness : un témoin / to witness : être témoin de 
  • to be free from … : être libre 
  • a testimony # testimonial # witness account 
  • to make people aware of sthg / to spread the word / share a message

Interpreting by Bilaly, Maël and Serge // Reacting by NourEddine, Imane & Camille 

We think William Wells Brown  has made the right decision to escape to Canada to be free. He understands he is free now but the situation is dangerous for him in America. So he tries to go to Canada because it is a country which supportS the abolition slavery . He doesn’t want to be caught so it ‘s dangerous. That’s why he hides at his Quaker friend . This is the first time he feels free but it seems strange for him because he still feels like he is a slave and he has to hide .

We can say that he changed his name because it is a slave’s name. Maybe he wants to change his past, or to protect himself from his slave-master. He needs a name to write his own story and enter History. 


The I & The Eye

What’s the difference between the “I” and the ” Eye” ?

biography – the writer’s eye corresponds to the writer’s perception of himself / his story / his personal memories (souvenirs ) of his life

> the book is like a mirror 

An Autobiography is a story told by the writer himself . In an autobiography the writer is the narrator and also the main character. 

For us to buy an autobiography it has to be a unique story / an example to follow / original and different lifestyle / unique life experience.

When individual stories meet collective HISTORY > have a universal dimension. 

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The Eye and the I


Warm up : The Eye and the I

Final task: Based on a Facebook profile, write 3 paragraphs of an autobiography to be published in 2080.

Session 1 – document to download here: facebooks-timeline2

EYE : when we write autobiographies we collect memories, report events and record our life. We try to be realistic. Do we tell the truth ?  About the way we see ourselves / the way we see writing?

I: we speak about facts and feelings / about our life / our loved ones / our inner self. Is an autobiography like a diary? Or is it written from a diary? About the past but written now > so an autobiography is about how we see ourselves now compared to who we were in the past.


How do we give our autobiography a realistic and a universal dimension? Do we manipulate the facts ? rearrange events? Do we lie ?

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LMA – LELE THE EYE AND THE I – Autobiography & Childhood memories

Texts extracts:

  • An Angel at my Table, by Janet Frame 1982.
  • Moab is my washpot, by Stephen Fry, 1997.
  • The autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: a Soliloquy on Viewing my Life from the last Decade of this Century by W. E. B. Du Bois. 1968.


  • Apricot short film by Ben Briand, 2010.
  • Action AId Campaign

THE EYE ( point of view) & THE I ( narrative techniques and autobiography)

How you see and write about yourself > autobiography.

Janet FRAME won writing awards in New Zealand.

She was ‘misdiagnosed’ with schizophrenia / she wasn’t schizophrenic.

Her memories are used to recreate herself / to re-order her life / to convince people she is not crazy.

She used to write and read poetry with her sister who then died. (autrefois / elle avait l’habitude de )

She uses clichés of romantic poetry: her sister dies (her cat too!) her brother was sick … > spleen and sadness but with humour.

In this extract she tells about her childhood memories and how it is difficult for her to reorganize her teenager’s memories.

She explains how she became a writer at a very young age / she was predestined to be a writer. She was interested in romantic poetry which is strange for a young teenager.

She creates her avatar as a writer, she calls herself ‘Ambre Butterfly ‘ and writes to ‘Dear Mister Ardenue’ > grotesques & caricature.

Autobiography ?

goals / aims (buts)

– to tell about the reality / real life events of oneself ( les vrais évènements de notre vie)

– to be true / to tell the truth (la vérité)

– to reveal oneself / to express oneself

Different types of autobiographies

> some autobiographies have a historical & political dimension ( Ex. Churchill’s or Franklin’s memoirs) they can help us understand past events and political decisions better.

> some autobiographies are meant to prove a point, uphold your reputation, change people’s perception. (Ex. Rousseau’s Confessions, Janet Frame )

> some autobiographies use and twist the traditional form and tell complete lies or distort points of views.

(Ex.The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger, The Waves, V. Woolf) )

> some autobiographies were not meant to be published / public, they are more diaries and intimate / private revelations (Anne Frank’s journal / The Yellow Wall Paper.)

Non-fiction reveals the ugly truth about ordinary or exceptional people whereas fiction makes people look good, it creates heroes, only keeps the bright side.


Non fiction life writing formats : diaries, letters, journals, memoirs.

Whose perspective? The author’s perspective is expressed.  The narrator is also the main character.

author = narrator = main character.

Diaries are different from journals because diaries are private and express feelings whereas journals are supposed to be neutral / unbiased.

Contrary to both the diaries and the journal, memoirs are ready to be published.

autobiography features:

  • vital statistics / implicit contract (P. Lejeune we believe in the signature (narrator = author) ) / we read the truth (But even lies can be truthful… S. Fich)
  • Rhetorical act / life writing / to uphold your reputation

novel writing:

  • plot
  • dialogue
  • setting
  • characterization

historical writing:

  • chronicles
  • events
  • facts
  • dates

Churchill = change / adapt the viewpoint to correspond to different periods / add some moral perspective / to set the example for new generations / convincing with a political agenda

Contrary to Angelou = universal message / poetry / singing / interior monologue / stream of consciousness / facts can obscure the true feelings / realistic writing can hide true and deep feelings. (lyrical poetry > Janet Frame)

Reality # truth

  • What are the characters talking about? They are talking about childhood memories and the girl recalls / remembers her first kiss and her first love whereas the man can’t remember anything.
  • Who asks the questions? Why? Write down the questions you hear.

The man asks all the questions. Did you have a boyfriend in hight school? How was your first kiss? Can you remember your first kiss?

  • What does she remember? Why do you think she wants to leave?

She remembers how she felt when she used to play dress up with her friends, she remembers the boy always carried a camera and was very mysterious. He tried to collect sensations as if he knew he wouldn’t remember them *when he is old. when + present // as if : comme si / would> conditionel

  • How did you feel as you were watching? What’s the message of the film director?
  • Why is it called Apricot?

The images looked dreamlike and the music was great! Some of the film was predictable and we expected the guy to be the childhood boy because the pen and notebook are the equivalent of the camera. The actors sounded real and the girl was genuinely angry. The didn’t meet by chance / it wasn’t an accident. The director wants us to feel that memories are both poetic and very important. He associates tastes and feelings with memories thanks to the flashback technique. The girl’s first kiss tastes of apricot and now the guy’s kiss tastes like coffee so memories are associated with sensations. Thanks to the taste of coffee, he might be able to remember this kiss.    d- Imagine 3 more questions and act out the conversation. Use 10 words from our lesson. // Speed Dating


  • What was the first sweet / candy that you ate?
  • Can you remember your nursery school teacher?
  • Can you remember the name of your teddy bear?
  • Can you remember your birthday party?
  • Do you remember your first vehicle ./ car?
  • Can your remember the first nightmare you had because of a movie?
  • Welcoming: acceuillant
  • friendly: sympa
  • ginger-haired: roux
  • unwelcoming / unfriendly / rude / not nice …
  • excited / enthusiastic
  • clueless / ditzy : tête en l’air
  • She said / she explained…
  • She told me that…
  • there is / are : il ya présent // there was / were : il y avait
  • to be seasick / to have a headache
  • except: sauf
  • werewolf: loup garou –
  • another host family / pen friend
  • nice meals : de bons repas / nice dishes: plats
  • hot chocolate: chocolat chaud

> an ad with a serious message / meaning (une pub avec un message important)

  • An awareness campaign : campagne de sensibilisation. People must be warned (prévenus)/ aware (conscients) of conflicts and wars (guerres) affecting children and their childhood memories.

    A child (sg) / children (pl.): enfant

  • 4- List all the accessories you can spot. Ask if you need vocabulary. Gloves

    Disney ‘minnie’ hairband / headband with the big black ears.

    Red dress with patterns

  • 5- Imagine the anecdotes. ‘I think she / he … / I suppose … ‘
  • I suppose Olivia loved going crabbing / Ben loved swimming.I think Heidi loved messing around with her mum’s make up!

    I suppose Ben enjoyed wearing goggles and a scuba mask.

    I suppose she played hide and seek while her mum was dressing up.

  • When Jodie was young she played dress up as Minnie. I think she wore her mother’s high heels and earrings.


  • A Good Cause!
  • to support a campaign = soutenir une campagne
  • an awareness campaign: campagne de sensibilisation
  • to sponsor a child: sponsoriser un enfant
  • to donate money: faire un don meals / food memories
  • meatball: boulette de viandes
  • oodles of: des tas de
  • to allow sthg: autoriser qqchsea / water memories
  • to splash: éclabousser
  • to dive: plonger
  • a scuba diving set / mask + goggles : un kit de plongée scuba = tuba / goggles : lunettesto go crabbing: aller à la pêche aux crabes
  • a yellow raincoat and hat: un imperméable et un chapeau.
  • rubber boots: bottes en caoutchouc
  • to be brought up : grandir / être élevée
  • the weather: la météo
  • muddy: boueux
  • a string: une corde / un fil
  • to grow up: grandirclothes / girly memories
  • to play dress up: jouer à se déguiser
  • high heels: talons aiguilles
  • beads: perles
  • earring: boucles d’oreilles
  • necklace: collier
  • shop assistant / customer: vendeur / client
  • dolls: poupées
  • prams: poussettes
  • to be tricked by: se faire avoir par / prendre au piège
  • boot: coffre de voiture
  • a trunk: une malle ( à vêtements)
  • suitcases: valises
  • labels: étiquettes