Journal Special Issue - Telling Lives, Signifying Selves: Life Writing, Representation, and Identity

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics (JCLA)
contact email: 

Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics (JCLA)
Vol. 44, No. 4, Winter 2021

SPECIAL ISSUE - Telling Lives, Signifying Selves: Life Writing, Representation, and Identity

Guest Editor: Mukul Chaturvedi
Associate Professor of English, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi, India


Stories have an irresistible charm, and they continue to fascinate us. In fact, stories or narratives are the only way we understand ourselves and our world. If, as Seyla Benhabib (1996) says, “we are who we are, or the ‘I’ that we are, by means of a narrative”, then the narrative of a life or writing about one’s own life may be a crucial way in which the writer can inscribe or access subjectivity. Life writing fundamentally embodies a crises of representation as it struggles to represent a life by ordering it in a narrative form and foregrounds ways of being in the world. As a discourse on the self, life writing traverses’ various disciplinary terrains like history, literature, journalism, ethnography, and pushes the limits of writing the self. Extending the traditional generic boundaries of autobiography and biography, life writing encompasses a vast array of self-induced narrative forms that have spawned in recent years. Other than life writing texts like memoirs, diaries, and testimonies there is also an upsurge in graphic memoirs and digital storytelling that have brought a new dimension to practices of narrating the self. In the field of cinema, biopics have spawned in recent years and there is a keen interest in adapting real-life stories.

Dismantling the notion of a coherent self and positing it as provisional and contingent, life writing acknowledges the complex nature of autobiographical acts and their performative nature in which ‘selves’ are constantly configured through experience, memory, location, identity, and ability. Also, life writing has emerged as a more inclusive genre which allows for collaborations, non-hierarchical connections to emerge as it gives voice to oral and marginalized subjectivities. Interestingly, one key aspect of life writing is how it circulates across languages, cultures, borders through translation and its various trajectories in transnational contexts. While translation of life writing texts as forms of testimonial acts or role of personal narratives in human rights (Gilmore 2017 Smith and Schaffer 2004) has been empowering as narrators find voice and reclaim agency, critics have cautioned towards the pitfalls and appropriation of these texts as they circulate beyond the locus of their origin. (Whitlock 2007)

Addressing the epistemological, ethical, methodological and translational issues in life writing scholarship across varying narrative forms and media, this special issue of JCLA envisages itself as an interface between life writing researchers/academicians, life writing practitioners, life writing translators and calls upon the contributors to examine the sub-themes mentioned below. These themes are only suggestive and in no way restrictive. Contributors are welcome to go beyond them and offer creative and critical insights from a range of life writing forms.

  • Pushing the Boundaries: the limits of life writing
  • Autobiography and Truth Claims
  • Life writing and Memory
  • Life Writing as Testimony
  • Life in Translation: Challenges and Responsibilities
  • Life Writing and Gender
  • Ethics of Authorship: Collaborative life writing
  • Life writing and Censorship
  • Queer & Trans Lives
  • Disability life writing
  • Life on Celluloid: Biopics
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Graphic lives/memoirs
  • Autoethnography

Please submit abstracts of 300 words with a brief bio note.

Last date for the submission of abstract: 15th May 2021
Intimation of selection of abstracts: 30th May 2021
Full Paper (5,000-6,000 words) submission: 15th September 2021

Please email your abstracts to with a copy to




The "Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics" (ISSN 0252-8169) is published by Vishvanatha Kaviraja Institute, India since 1977. (Vishvanatha Kaviraja, most widely known for his masterpiece in aesthetics, Sahityadarpana or the “Mirror of Composition”, was a prolific 14th-century Indian poetician, rhetorician, and aesthetician.) The Institute was founded by Ananta Charan Sukla (1942-2020) on August 22, 1977 coinciding with the birth centenary of renowned philosopher, aesthetician, and art historian, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) to promote interdisciplinary studies in comparative literature, cultural theory, aesthetics, philosophy and criticism of the arts, and the history of ideas.

The Journal is committed to comparative and cross-cultural issues in literary understanding and interpretation, aesthetic theories, conceptual analysis of art, literature, philosophy, history, religion, and mythology. It also publishes special issues on critical theories of current interest and contemporary relevance. It is the oldest academic journal of India still in existence sans any institutional support.
JCLA has published the finest of essays by authors of global renown like René Wellek, Harold Osborne, John Hospers, John Fisher, Murray Krieger, Martin Bucco, Remo Ceserani, J.B. Vickery, Menachem Brinker, Milton Snoeyenbos, Mary Wiseman, Ronald Roblin, T.R. Martland, V.K. Chari, Gordon Epperson, Judith Lochhead, Charles Altieri, Martin Jay, Jonathan Culler, Richard Shusterman, Robert Kraut, T.J. Diffey, T.R. Quigley, R.B. Palmer, Keith Keating, and many others.

JCLA is indexed and abstracted in the MLA International Bibliography, Master List of Periodicals (USA), Ulrich’s Directory of Periodicals, ERIH PLUS, The Philosopher’s Index, PhilPapers, WorldCat Directory, EBSCO, ProQuest, Literature Online, Gale (Cengage Learning), United States Library of Congress, and the British Library. It is also indexed in numerous university (central) libraries, state, and public libraries, and scholarly organizations/ learned societies databases.

Celebrated scholars of the time like René Wellek, Harold Osborne, Mircea Eliade, Monroe Beardsley, John Hospers, John Fisher, M.H. Abrams, John Boulton, and many Indian and Western scholars had been members of its Editorial Board.