Invitation to contribute to an editorial essay for Life Writing: ‘Begging the question: what isn’t life writing?’

What are the parameters of the field of life writing studies? What sorts of texts count as life writing, and which – if any – don’t? We might argue that any narrative of a life, fictional or explicitly referential, constitutes life writing. We might even argue that any utterance is autobiographical, since it can work in some way to reify the utterer’s identity. Does a shopping list – pain killers, oranges, toothbrush – count as life writing? Others might argue that if our definition of life writing is so capacious, then it’s no definition at all.

You’re warmly invited to contribute to an editorial essay for Life Writing in which we’ll be surveying the field’s opinions on these abiding questions, and discussing an additional question: what does our definition of life writing mean for the ‘disciplining’ of life writing studies, for deciding, for instance, which texts to put on an autobiography studies syllabus, or indeed what is the range of permissible objects of analysis in a Life Writing article. When our students can only study so many texts in a semester, or a journal can only publish so many articles, does the need for a limiting definition of life writing become more pressing than ever, or was it always pressing anyway? Or is there a third option, a definition of life writing studies that is less about what we discuss than about the sorts of questions and analysis we bring to our discussion?

If you would like to contribute to this essay/discussion, please send no more than 500 words and a brief bio (<100 words) by the end of June 2017 to the Associate Editor, Alexis Harley (