Life Writing

Call for Abstracts: Philosophy and Life Writing
Deadline: 1 May 2017

Philosophers have long been interested in the nature of the self and in the meaning and narrative structure of human lives.  Many philosophers have themselves written autobiographies. Descartes’s Discourse on the Method, Augustine’s Confessions andRousseau’s Confessions are all frequently cited as early influences on the writing of autobiography. Yet there has been very little direct, theoretical and systematic interest from philosophers in the modern boom in autobiographical writing.

Christopher Cowley recently addressed this gap in his book The Philosophy of Autobiography (University of Chicago Press, 2015).  In this special themed edition of Life Writing, he plans to open up further discussion, together with his co-editor, D. L. LeMahieu, an intellectual historian and the author of two books and many articles on British cultural history.


Classic philosophic life writing (Augustine, Rousseau, Mill, Sartre etc).
How philosophers fashion their life narratives compared to other disciplines.
The relationship between subjectivities, truth and philosophic abstractions.
The influences of class, gender, race and nation; and the intersections of temporality and life narrative.
The role of faith in one’s self-understanding (perhaps with a reference to Kierkegaard).
The limits of narrative in the auto/biographical genre (perhaps with reference to Ricoeur).
The problem of understanding people in different times and places: historical biographies.
Can there be a complete secular biography of a devout religious believer?
To what degree should the biographer judge the subject?
The balance between luck and self-determination in the biography.
How the meaning of a person’s life changes over time: different biographies of the same person.
The relative advantages of writing a biography about a living person and a dead person.
The place of vanity and humility in autobiography.
Internalised oppressive self-conceptions and autobiography.
The right of response from those written about in others’ memoirs/autobiographies.
Do dying autobiographers have nothing to lose, and are they therefore most authentic?
Autobiography as revenge and punishment.

Abstracts are invited addressing any of the topics above. Please identify within your submission which of these topics you have chosen to address, and suggest four or five relevant keywords.

Abstracts should be between 500 and 750 words and include the author’s institutional affiliation, if any.

Due date for abstracts: 1 May 2017.

Abstracts should be emailed as a Word document to the journal’s editor

Final due date for completed papers if abstract is accepted: 1 January 2018.

Papers will be submitted for blind peer review and final online publication during 2018, with print publication to follow.

Editorial information
Guest Editor: Christopher Cowley
Guest Editor: D. L. LeMahieu