Life Writing Submit to a Special Issue on History and Autobiography

Life Writing

The issue aims to examine the intersection of the representation of the past with different forms of self-representation. Though historians have traditionally mistrusted personal narratives as critical documents, some historians have, over the past few decades, experimented with diverse forms of autobiography, suggesting that autobiographical narratives may contribute to an understanding of the past and the processes of accessing the past. Some of these historians write autobiographies as an introspective exercise that helps them acquire knowledge of their identity and the context in which they lived (Gerda Lerner’s No Farewell [1955], Annie Kriegel’s Ce que j’ai cru comprendre [1991], Eric Hobsbawm’s Interesting Years [2002], Richard Pipes’ Vixi [2003], Sheila Fitzpatrick’s A Spy in the Archives [2013]). Others have used sub-genres of ego-histoire and interventional autobiography as unconventional academic approaches to the personal and public past (Georges Duby’s L’histoire continue [1991], Geoff Eley’s A Crooked Line [2005], John H. Elliott’s History in the Making [2012]). A few of these texts have become best-sellers, showing the literary potential of historians’ autobiographies, such as Jill K. Conway’s The Road from Coorain (1991), Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana (2003). Finally, a smaller but influential group has turned to life-writing simply to say things that they feel they cannot say within the framework of academic discourse, notably, Carolyn Steedman’s Landscape for a Good Woman (1986) and Robert A. Rosenstone’s Adventures of a Postmodern Historian (2016).

The essays in this special issue should explore the ways autobiography serves historical understanding and writing, and the theoretical and practical consequences of this relationship. We are not only interested in contributions that address the crossroads of  history and autobiography, which has been done by scholars such as Jeremy D. Popkin, History, Historians & Autobiography (Chicago, 2005) and Jaume Aurell, Theoretical Perspectives on Historians’ Autobiographies (New York, 2016) but also in essays which might themselves experiment with diverse forms of autobiographical writing in order to illuminate the historical record – i.e. personal narratives by the contributors themselves.

Topics may focus on, but are not limited to:

  • autobiography as historiography
  • the uses of autobiography among historians
  • historians or critics writing autobiography for this issue
  • historians’ autobiography as metahistorical or meta-autobiographical artifacts
  • autobiography as historiographical intervention

Submission Instructions

Please send 500-word abstracts and a short bio before June 1, 2018, to Jaume Aurell. The authors will know that their proposals have been accepted before July 31. Final papers will be due on February 1, 2019.

Editorial information

  • Special Issue Editor: Jaume Aurell
  • Special Issue Editor: Rocío G. Davis