- Editors’ Note
In certain ways, this year’s “Annual Bibliography of Works about Life Writing (2013–2014)” looks remarkably similar to last year’s installment. The number of individual entries is still formidable, but stable—1,597, as opposed to last year’s 1,588—and the distribution between single-author books, edited collections and special issues, individual articles, and dissertations is almost identical. The 163 books in this installment represent an increase of 5, while the number of collections and special issues slipped slightly from 79 to 77, and the number of articles in them went from 910 to 903. Individual journal articles were up, from 438 to 441, and dissertations were up even more, from 82 to 90. It could be argued, then, that the field is showing signs of being remarkably predictable.
Except it isn’t. What struck us as we read carefully through the 158 closely-printed pages of this year’s bibliography were substantial shifts in language, in publishing venue, and in subject matter. Last year we noted that while abstracts were present for work in French, German, Spanish, and Chinese, the numbers were “still disproportionately small, given the amount of life writing work being done in these and other languages.” This year we added abstracts for books, articles, and dissertations written in the national languages of Russian, Italian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Turkish scholars, and while the total number is still tiny in relation to the work being done, nearly 115 entries here are for work in a language other than English, including 12 monographs in German, and 40 entries in Spanish, 25 in Russian, and 12 in French. Our guess is that as we devote even more time to identifying and abstracting such work, and as we draw on the expertise of the scholars now participating in the International Autobiography and Biography Association division conferences in Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific, these numbers will explode.
As for publishing venue, what is especially striking with regard to books and edited collections is the concentration of publishers. We noted last year that Ashgate, Bloomsbury, Palgrave Macmillan, Oxford, and Universitätsverlag Winter appeared prominently in our listings. This pattern has continued. But when we look at the approximately 240 volumes published this past year, what becomes clear is that a handful of presses are producing a great deal of the work in our field. Ashgate alone published 19, with Bloomsbury (15), and Palgrave Macmillan (14) close behind. This year we need to add De Gruyter, with 11, and Brill with 8. If we add Oxford (7) to the list, 74 of the books [End Page iii] and collections published last year—nearly a third—came from 6 presses. If nothing else, then, this says something about where you might consider submitting a monograph or collection of essays for consideration.
And the subject matter? Two or three brief thoughts. In the area of literary studies, there has been a very noticeable upswing in critical work dealing with classical and early modern life writing—and not only in Europe. A striking increase has taken place in Middle Eastern and Asian life writing scholarship, whether in venues like Shanghai’s The Journal of Modern Life Writing, or in journals with a focus on Arabic or “Oriental” literatures. But the biggest shift has taken place in what can loosely be called the areas of qualitative research. Many, many more books, collections, and articles are being produced by sociologists, psychologists, education theorists, medical researchers, and political scientists, all beginning with the premise that life narratives hold the key to addressing more effectively some of the most central and intractable challenges researchers face in these fields.
When we add to these linguistic, publication, and material expansions of the field the unfolding technological implications of online journals and databases, we ourselves are faced with exciting but formidable questions about how to make this annual critical bibliography even more useful to scholars. Before our next installment, we hope to have begun to answer some of them. [End Page iv]