Reading Autobiography Now

An Updated Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Third Edition

2024
Authors:

Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson

A user-friendly guide to reading, writing, and theorizing autobiographical texts and practices for students, scholars, and practitioners of life narrative

Updated and expanded, Reading Autobiography Now is an accessible and contemporary guide to autobiographical narratives. Exploring definitions of life narrative, probing issues of subjectivity, and outlining salient features of autobiographical arts and practices, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson offer both a critical engagement with life narrative in historical perspective and a theoretical framework for interpreting texts and practices in this wide-ranging field.

The boom in autobiographical narratives continues apace. It now encompasses a global spectrum of texts and practices in such media as graphic memoir, auto-photography, performance and plastic arts, film and video, and online platforms. Reading Autobiography Now offers both a critical engagement with life narrative in historical perspective and a theoretical framework for interpreting texts and practices in this wide-ranging field. Hailed upon its initial publication as “the Whole Earth Catalog of autobiography studies,” this essential book has been updated, reorganized, and expanded in scope to serve as an accessible and contemporary guide for scholars, students, and practitioners.

Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson explore definitions of life narrative, probe issues of subjectivity, and outline salient features of autobiographical acts and practices. In this new edition, they address emergent topics such as autotheory, autofiction, and autoethnography; expand the discussions of identity, relationality, and agency; and introduce new material on autobiographical archives and the profusion of “I”s in contemporary works. Smith and Watson also provide a helpful toolkit of strategies for reading life narrative and an extensive glossary of mini-essays analyzing key theoretical concepts and dozens of autobiographical genres.

An indispensable exploration of this expansive, transnational, multimedia field, Reading Autobiography Now meticulously unpacks the heterogeneous modes of life narratives through which people tell their stories, from traditional memoirs and trauma narratives to collaborative life narrative and autobiographical comics.

Sidonie Smith is Lorna G. Goodison Distinguished University Professor Emerita of English and women’s and gender studies at the University of Michigan. Among her almost two dozen books are Manifesto for the Humanities and, with Julia Watson, Life Writing in the Long Run.

Julia Watson is Academy Professor Emerita of comparative studies at The Ohio State University. She is author of numerous essays in the field and, with Sidonie Smith, coauthor of two books and coeditor of five books.

Contents

Preface

Part I. Theorizing Life Narrative

1. Defining and Discerning Life Narrative Forms

2. Autobiographical Subjects

3. Autobiographical Acts

4. What about Autobiographical Truth?

Part II. A Guide to Reading Life Narrative

5. Reading Life Narratives: A Tool Kit of Strategies

6. Kinds of Life Narratives: A Compendium of Key Concepts and Genres

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Publication History

Index