- Editors’ Note
This year’s installment of the Annual Bibliography continues, with some fluctuations, to display the patterns we’ve seen over the past few years in the publication of critical and theoretical work on life writing. First of all, the sheer number of entries has again increased—from roughly 1,200 last year to roughly 1,300 this year. The biggest shift upward appears in the number of dissertations (from 87 to 134), but the most striking difference appears not in the numbers of articles appearing in edited collections and special issues, which are virtually identical (roughly 650), but in the number of collections and special issues themselves—a major drop from 79 last year to 50 this year.
Why then is the number of articles the same? Because of the large number of individual essays appearing in the edited collections. The twenty-something special issues average 8–9 articles an issue; the twenty-something books, however, average over 18, with two of them containing 40 or more, and several containing between 24 and 35. In the interests of disclosure, the Modern Language Association Options in Teaching volume on Teaching Life Writing, co-edited by two of the editors of this journal, has the most of any—44 contributions—but that is the nature of such MLA pedagogy collections. We still think it is fair to note, however, that in general, articles are getting shorter regardless of their venue. The substantial 25 to 30 page essay becomes more the exception these days than the rule, as books become shorter even as their tables of contents grow longer.
Some other observations. There is no question that the social sciences are producing an exponentially expanding body of research on life writing. This is already the case in Great Britain, where the numerous life writing and narrative research centers tend to have a strong sociological and pedagogical emphasis, but the trend is clearly taking hold in North American and Australian journals as well, as qualitative research becomes the focus for many demographic and ethnographic projects.
We think it’s also accurate to note that after many years of a strong theoretical emphasis on autobiographical genres, more and more research is trying to come to terms with biography—whether through an engagement with interviewing methodology, or with the narrative, ethical, and ideological dimensions of representing other lives. This increased practical grappling with biography should lead to more sophisticated and wide-reaching scholarship—a welcome change, for as Catherine Parke has remarked, much work [End Page iii] in life writing has proceeded from the premise that “Biography, of all the literary genres, might seem to be the one least in need of explanation, analysis, and justification.”
We’ve also noticed that certain presses seem to be publishing a substantial number of the critical works this year—SUNY Press, Ashgate, Left Coast, Boydell and Brewer, and Legenda. Poetry is getting more sustained attention, and we were struck as well by the amount of critical work being published on W. G. Sebald.
Finally, we need to note once more that although we have listed a number of texts in languages other than English, for the most part the bibliography remains Anglocentric. We hope to address this issue, probably through the enlistment of editors in other languages, in the years ahead. [End Page iv]