MLA panel Session: Self-Narrating Lives: Genre Bending Autobiographical Works

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Association of the Arts of the Present
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Autobiographical artists' books, graphic novels are often highly self-reflexive, and their meta-character as books about books, or subversions of norms, makes them sites of citation and parody in which formal mimicry and content play with readers' expectations. Dick Higgins's famous FOEW & OMBWHNW, published in 1968, is a good example of such a work. Bound to resemble a standard hymnal or prayer book, the work is a collection of essays by Higgins in his various personae (e.g. Thunderbaby) that alternately narrate a life and expound his many theories of inter-media and fluxus aesthetics. Higgins's book makes a striking case for the connection between genre as format (look, style, binding, material properties) and the tone and manner of narration. Works by Kathy Acker and Art Speigelman perform similar twists in their play of the codes of appearance and the tone of narrative in the text and images. Performance works by Eleanor Antin or Zoe Beloff often play meta-games that cross genre boundaries in the creation of fictive autobiographical texts. To what extent do these works challenge or extend concepts of narrative and the ways in which claims to authenticity, masquerade, performance, role playing, and other conceits are embodied in self-narrating lives?

The papers that we solicit for this panel are each concerned with a particular case or issue that connects format features of the material expression (in any medium, analogue or digital) with expectations about pseudo or actual autobiographical narratives.

This panel is sponsored by A.S.A.P.: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present and is being organized and submitted by Johanna Drucker.

Send proposals or queries to by March 25th. Please indicate MLA membership status and institutional affiliation, and include a very brief bio note along with a one-page proposal.