Deadline Extended: Editing the "I"

deadline for submissions: 
March 22, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Association for Documentary Editing
contact email: 

Jerome McGann famously said, “When you edit, you change.” The Association for Documentary Editing invites proposals for a guaranteed session on editing first-person nonfiction narratives for MLA 2020 in Seattle. How might McGann’s statement pertain to preparing first-person documents (other than correspondence) for public consumption in print or other media? In keeping with the MLA Presidential Theme, how might this editing (“changing”) enhance or obscure the humanity of the first-person subject?


“Editing the ‘I’” will address the challenges of editing nonfiction texts claiming to be told in the first person singular. For editors, how might such a text differ from one using the second or third person? Do special editing protocols pertain if the document purports to be told by its protagonist?


Many scholars find themselves editing lifewriting documents they discover, to make them ready for publication—or at least citation. What are the challenges of working with another person’s life text to make it citable, or marketable, or better understood by readers unfamiliar with the situation in which the text was created? What is the personal evolutionary history of a particular text? Especially given the idiosyncrasies of various forms of lifewriting (excluding correspondence in this consideration), there are always exceptions and special challenges.


There also is the recent trend for scholars to author or edit their own life stories for presentation. For a host of human reasons—some subconscious, perhaps—might they edit accounts of their own lives to fit a genre or political reality? Does knowing the subgenres of lifewriting subtly prejudice what is revealed (or not)? 


In summary:

- What editing challenges do first-person narratives (other than letters) present?


- How might editing these differ from editing other texts?


- How might editing enhance or obscure the humanity of the first-person - subject?


For consideration, please send a 300-word abstract, half-page CV and contact information to Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, by 15 March. Queries to same address.