CFP: Reconsidering Genre (11/1/04; journal issue)

full name / name of organization: 
G. Helms

Life Writing
Special Issue 2005

"Reconsidering Genre"

Guest editors: Gabriele Helms and Laurie McNeill

Studies of auto/biography -- i.e., writing about the self and/or others
-- have since the earliest stages been preoccupied with questions of
genre. In works that laid the foundations and established the first
canons of the field, critics such as Georges Gusdorf, Philippe Lejeune,
and William Spengemann attempted to define autobiography as a genre,
distinguishing "autobiography" proper from other related forms including
the diary, the biography, and the letter. With the field established as
legitimate, critics and practitioners began to revise these early
normative definitions to consider a wider range of forms and media. While
critical discussions no longer foregrounded genre, its continued
relevance is apparent in the range of terms used to describe what we
study-"life writing," "auto/biography," "biomythography,"
"<italic>testimonio</italic>," for example. These labels draw on implicit
assumptions about genre without explicitly addressing the effects of such
terminology on interpretation. Readers' and writers' expectations remain
for the most part tacit.

New theories of genre (especially since the 1980s) have moved away from
formal classification systems and now conceive of genres as dynamic and
evolving responses to recurring rhetorical situations. Scholars including
Carolyn Miller, John Swales, and Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway have
shifted attention from what genres consist of to what they do. Situated
in social and historical moments, genres are now perceived as neither
neutral nor transparent but rather ideologically charged strategies that
inform auto/biographical acts. Given both the historical importance of
genre to the field of auto/biography and these revised understandings of
genre, a critical re-examination of genre in auto/biography is long

This special issue of <italic>Life Writing</italic>, "Reconsidering
Genre," aims to initiate critical conversation on the role of genre in
shaping how texts and subjects are produced and received. We invite
theoretical papers on questions of genre as well as analyses or
comparisons of specific examples of auto/biographical forms. We encourage
submissions on all forms and periods of auto/biography across all=20

Possible topics include:

=B7 How does the choice of genre shape the ways in which individuals
represent themselves or others to particular audiences? Are all genres
equally accessible to all subjects?

=B7 What are the politics of genre?

=B7 How do national/cultural contexts affect the production and reception
of auto/biographical genres?

=B7 How have readers' and writers' expectations of auto/biographical genres
changed historically?=20

=B7 What role do genre labels play in the marketing of auto/biographical
material (e.g., creative non-fiction, docudrama, memoir,

=B7 How does the study of genre benefit or limit the teaching of
auto/biographical texts?

=B7 How do specific genres operate in different media? How are they
understood in different disciplines?

Please send a 300-word abstract or completed papers (20-25 pages
including notes and Works Cited, MLA style) together with a 100-word
biographical note as Word or RTF attachments to: <bold>Dr. Gabriele
Helms</bold>, Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia
( or <bold>Dr. Laurie McNeill</bold>,
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan (

Alternatively, submit three printed copies to Gabriele Helms and Laurie
McNeill, Department of English, The University of British Columbia,
#397-1873 East Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada

Abstracts or papers are due on <bold>November 1, 2004</bold>. Following
acceptance, completed papers will be due <bold>March 31, 2005</bold>.

Gabriele Helms, PhD

Department of English

The University of British Columbia

397-1873 East Mall

Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1

Phone: 604-822-4071

Fax: 604-822-6906

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Received on Mon Aug 23 2004 - 13:18:56 EDT