Life Narratives: Self-referential Proclamations
Journal of American Studies of Turkey (JAST): Special Issue on Life Narratives
Guest edited by Bilge Mutluay Çetintaş, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
Life Narratives: Self-referential Proclamations
Deadline for Full-Text Submissions: July 15, 2022
American life writing has a long tradition starting with the diaries, journals, and captivity narratives kept by Pilgrims and Puritans such as Mary Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682), to more canonized life writings such as Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (1791).
In their seminal book Reading Autobiography (2010), Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson point out that “autobiography” refers to the traditional western mode of life writing that emerged during the Enlightenment in the late eighteenth century. Unfairly discrediting other life narrating forms, autobiography refers to the traditional representative self-writing of sovereign individuals. Thus, Smith and Watson prefer “life writing” or “life narratives” as an all inclusive umbrella term instead of “autobiography,” or the more flexible term “memoir.”
For postmodern and postcolonial critics, the “I” in self-representation is far from the coherent and unified essentialist individual of autobiographies. The self is a fragmented entity, created through the limitations of language and positioned in multiple discourses. In Autobiography and Postmodernism (1994), Leigh Gilmore observes the relationship between truth telling and agency as the core of all autobiographical narrations, complicated further by ideology, gender, identity, and authority. She views autobiographical acts as rooted in conventions and power relations by evoking Foucault’s conception of power, stating that self-referential narratives create “a cultural and discursive site of truth production in relation to the disciplinary boundary of punishment” (59).
In whatever form they may appear, life narratives are part of our lives in an increasing and overwhelming amount. The recent global (semi)forced pandemic lockdowns have augmented the sharing and observing of daily life. Trying out recipes, body training, playing instruments, singing, or demonstrating various hobbies on web-based platforms have become statements of existence or acts of self-assertion. In response to destabilized and unsafe public spheres, domestic enclosures have transformed into permanent sites of renewed interest in autobiographical acts.
With this renewed “autobiographical turn” in mind, the guest editor of this issue of JAST seeks original, previously unpublished manuscripts on American life narratives, dealing with any period or subject. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
- Politics and poetics of American life writing
- Critical studies on American life narratives
- The limits, challenges, and possibilities of self-referential portrayals
- The role of memory, agency, and authority in life narratives
- Life writing in American poetry, novels or theater (fictionalized lives)
- Life narratives in performance and the visual arts (autobiographical videos, street performance, photography, exhibitions, etc.)
- Life narratives in TV series, movies, web-based channels, etc.
- Online lives (digital life stories, social media, dating apps, etc.)
- Genres of American life writing (apology, autofiction, autothanatography, biomythography, captivity narrative, diary, eco(auto)biography, gastrography, jockography, journal, letters, memoir, periautography, prison narratives, scriptotheraphy, slave narratives, spiritual narratives, travel narratives, witness narratives etc.)
- Popular culture and life writing
- American women’s life writing
- Immigrant and ethnic life narratives
- Family life-writing or collaborative life writing
- Public figures and celebrity life writing
- Graphic life narratives (autographics)
- Life writing and consciousness raising
- Activism and life writing
- Hybridity, diaspora, and (forced) displacement in life narratives
- Dis/ability and life writing
- The global pandemic and life narratives
- Teaching life narratives
Full-text manuscripts of between 6,000 and 8,000 words in MLA style (with parenthetical internal citations, a Works Cited page, minimal footnotes, and in Times New Roman 12-point font), should be emailed as Microsoft Word attachments to Bilge Mutluay Çetintaş (email@example.com) by July 15, 2022. Please include an abstract (150 words), keywords, and a one-paragraph bio (150 words, written in the third-person) with all manuscripts. Topic inquiries are welcome prior to full-text submission.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bilge Mutluay Çetintaş, Guest Editor