full name / name of organization:
Autobiography and the Body
We are seeking essay abstracts for a proposed anthology of essays on any
aspect of the role of the body in autobiography.
In recent criticism of autobiography, the body has once again becoming central
to discursive constructions of the self. The pervasive influence of the
Cartesian duality in the classic American autobiographies by men – such as
those of Benjamin Franklin, Henry James, and Henry Adams – is apparent in
their emphasis on the life of the mind, while the pronouncements of Paul de
Man in the early 1980’s defined the self as inevitably an artificial
linguistic construct that once again seemed to make the body disappear.
Feminist scholars such as Sidonie Smith, however, have shown how for women
biology has long been perceived as destiny, and thus their autobiographies
often focus much more on the life of the body and its relation to their
emotional lives. In recent years women writers have become the leading
practitioners of memoir and autobiography, and the autobiography of disease
and disability has become one of its most popular and innovative subgenres.
Simultaneously, the significance of the body in life writing has gained
increasing attention even among scholars who do not focus specifically on
women’s life writing as scholarship of autobiography has begun to explore the
science of the brain. In his most recent book Paul John Eakin, long a
groundbreaking scholar in the theory of autobiography, has once again taken
the lead, reading texts such as Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face and
Robert Murphy’s The Body Silent in light of the most recent debates by
neurologists such as Oliver Sacks, neurobiologists like Gerald M. Edelman, and
philosophers of mind such as Daniel C. Dennett.
The time is ripe for an essay collection on the significance, or
insignificance, of the body in autobiography. Possible subjects include, but
certainly are not limited to, classic autobiographies, slave narratives,
women’s autobiography, the autobiography of disability and disease,
autobiography and neurobiology, or autobiography and the body as racial
Please submit electronically abstracts of no more than 750 words along with a
brief CV to Dr. Christopher Stuart of the University of TN at Chattanooga at
<chris-stuart_at_utc.edu> by January 1st, 2007. Requests for more information
may be sent to the same address.
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or write Jennifer Higginbotham: higginbj_at_english.upenn.edu
Received on Fri Oct 06 2006 - 15:59:07 EDT