Call for papers: Beyond Boundaries. Authorship and Readership in Life Writing

A two-day conference held at Tilburg University, the Netherlands
24 and 25 October 2019

In ‘The Limits of Life Writing’ David McCooey (2017) argues that in life-writing studies, the concept of limits or boundaries plays a central role. Since the rise of auto/biography studies in the 1970s and 1980s critical attention has been paid to generic limits and the limits concerning the auto/biographical subject. With respect to the former, discussions have evolved in particular around the boundaries between literary and factual writing, and between verbal, graphic, audio-visual and digital forms of life writing. In regard to the latter, academics since the 1990s have given attention to the expansion of auto/biographical subjects previously marginalized, which has deepened, among other things, the cross-cultural understanding of experience and identity. This expansion of auto/biographical subjects, but also the rise of social media as a medium for life writing have contested the limits of selfhood.

However, some other limits have gone largely unnoticed in life-writing research so far. Two of them will be the center of attention during this conference, one having to do with readership, and the other concerned with authorship. Until now little attention has been paid to the boundaries between life writing for adults on the one hand and life writing for young readers on the other. Crossing these boundaries can provide fruitful debates about how the reader matters and how studying the reception and addressed audiences of life writing is important.

Another issue that has not received much attention in life writing research is the boundary between life writing by adult authors and life narratives by young people. As Douglas and Poletti (2016) argue, the contribution of young writers to life writing has so far been largely overlooked. How do they relate to narratives by adults? How similar or different are the ways in which adult and young writers engage in modes of self-representation? And what is the influence of social media on life writing by young people?

We welcome presentations on authorship and readership in different forms of life writing by adult and young authors, marketed to adult and young readers. To what extent do authors use life writing to put issues of power, voice and agency on the public agenda? How do readers matter in the way authors of life writing address themselves to them? What are the similarities and differences between life writing for an adult audience and for young readers? What aspects define (successful) dual-audience life writing?

As life writing is relevant for academic disciplines such as the humanities and social sciences, in particular children’s literature, literature and culture studies, ethnography, anthropology and philosophy, we look forward to receiving proposals from researchers working in these fields, and to discussing disciplinary boundaries at the conference.

Subthemes are

  • Cultural diversity
  • Transnational life writing
  • Life writing in text and images
  • Offline and online life writing
  • Gender issues in life writing
  • LGTBQ life writing
  • Dual-audience life writing
  • Creating childhoods through life writing

Keynote speakers (confirmed): Prof. dr Anna Poletti (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) and prof. dr Lydia Kokkola (Lulea University, Sweden)

Conference organizers: Prof. dr Helma van Lierop (Tilburg University), Dr Jane McVeigh (University of Roehampton), Dr Monica Soeting (European Journal of Life Writing)

Abstracts consisting of a maximum of 250 words, a title, an indication of the subtheme your abstract fits in best, name, institutional affiliation or status as independent scholar, email address and a short bio of no more than 150 words should be sent before 15 March 2019 to Prof. dr Helma van Lierop at h.vanlierop@tilburguniversity.edu.