- Editors’ Note
This year’s Bibliography of Works about Life Writing reveals a number of shifts in the patterns we’ve been noting over the years. To begin with, the number of entries has decreased—the first time we can remember this happening. Even more striking, however, is where the fluctuations are occurring.
If we compare last year’s statistics to this year’s, several trends jump out. The number of single-authored books is down slightly—from about 150 to 140—but these kinds of variations are familiar. (The 2008 Bibliography had about 140 as well.) The first surprise is in the number of essays appearing in edited collections or journal special issues. Last year, 685 articles appeared in 78 volumes, half of these being edited collections. This year, the overall number of volumes fell to 69, but the number of edited collections actually rose, to about 45, and so did the number of articles—up to almost 750. Granted, 32 of these appeared in a single collection—Alfred Hornung’s volume, drawn from papers delivered at the 2006 International Auto/Biography Association conference in Mainz. Nevertheless, the edited collection is clearly becoming the publishing venue of choice, and a look at the publishers suggests that Palgrave Macmillan, Ashgate, and Cambridge Scholars are leading the way. Many of these collections have grown out of conferences or some other form of study group or institute planning, also suggesting that the European model of Proceedings or other forms of conference-linked publication is becoming the worldwide norm.
The increase in numbers for this category is more than countered by a drop in the number of articles appearing in regular issues of scholarly journals—395, down from 2009’s 480. This parallels our own experience at Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. Potential contributors are less and less likely to submit an essay over the transom for one of our regular issues, but when we announce one of our annual special issues, we often get more submissions for that specifically than we do for the other three regular issues. A focused topic, and hard and close deadlines, are apparently very attractive.
Another conceptual shift has to do with the medium. Over the past few years, we’ve commented on the increase in online publications. By now, though, this term has become all but meaningless. Of necessity, almost all of the major traditional journals appearing in our Bibliography have an electronic version; in fact, for most of us, 90 to 95 percent of our readers access our journals through institutional subscriptions to content providers like Project Muse, or Ebsco, or Routledge. Formidable issues are being debated by [End Page iii] bibliographers with regard to documenting online-only publications. At present, though, we assume that while the articles listed in this Bibliography are almost certainly online, they retain a connection to a more traditional printed journal, at least in conception. But the number of such articles is declining, and the decline may be accelerating.
As for dissertations, what a difference a year makes. In 2009 we documented about 140 completed PhDs. This year? About 90. We don’t think this drop necessarily reflects a long range shift away from life writing topics, but a look at this year’s dissertation abstracts, and for that matter, at those for the books and essays recorded in the other categories, suggests that fewer and fewer writers are conducting literary or historical readings of Western canonical texts, or of contemporary biographies and autobiographies.
A few other general observations. The number of life writing studies dealing with Asian, African, and Middle Eastern subjects is definitely on the rise, and so is the number of pieces in this bibliography written in languages other than English—most notably, German, French, Spanish, and Dutch. More and more essays on Medieval and Early Modern texts are being published. And finally, there’s a big shift taking place toward social science qualitative research. Mass observation studies, and research in education, sociology, and ethnography—these disciplines are increasingly prominent in our annual review of scholarship.
The fluctuation in numbers could partly result from fluctuations in the data bases and publication announcements that we consult. The whole business...