- Editors’ Note
In the Fall of 1985, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly published its first “Bibliography of Works about Life-Writing,” for the year 1984. The editor was Phyllis E. Wachter, and the bibliography had thirty-six entries, supplying information about eight monographs, including Leon Edel’s Writing Lives: Principia Biographica and Ira Nadel’s Biography: Fiction, Fact, and Form; one edited collection; one bibliography; five articles, one by Richard Ellmann; eighteen doctoral dissertations; and two journals—the seventh volume (1984) of Biography, and a new publication, Autobiography Studies Newsletter (1985), which as a/b: Auto/Biography Studies celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2015. Three of the entries were for works in a language other than English.
The next year, the bibliography was in full swing, with almost 120 entries—forty-one dissertations, thirty articles, and forty-four books. And since titles often don’t really say much about the actual content, Phyllis also began providing brief annotations for each of the items. By the second installment, then, Phyllis Wachter had set the template for what appears in this issue as the thirtieth installment of what is now called the “Annual Bibliography of Works about Life Writing.” This installment is also the last one that that will contain Phyllis’s contributions.
It’s important to remember just how different circumstances were when she started this feature. No computer databases to speak of—everything was paper. The lag time between publication and any notice in other bibliographies could be huge. Dissertations dominate the early installments because Dissertations Abstracts International was one of the few comprehensive and dependable reference works that appeared in timely installments. The best way to find out about new books in the field was to attend the Modern Language Association convention, and then lug back home all the catalogues from the Publishers’ displays. Otherwise, you had to wait for the large annual MLA Bibliography volumes, or the comparable reference texts in other fields.
It’s also important to note how successful over the years this bibliography has become. From the time that Biography first appeared on Project Muse, and we finally began to get some real user numbers for our contents, the annual bibliographies were not only the most frequently downloaded features in Biography, but often among the most consulted resources in the entire Project Muse database. With the advent of online article databases, we expanded the range and the number of references exponentially. The big transition occurred [End Page iii] in 1997, when a thirty-two page installment succeeded the previous year’s six pages. The bibliography also become a joint venture, with Stan Schab, William Todd Schultz, and Aiko Yamashiro over the years adding entries to the mix. This year’s installment is almost 150 pages long.
Over the entire life of the bibliography, Phyllis has provided her entries, complete with annotations, year after year. She has been contributing to Biography far longer than any current editor, and the annotated critical bibliography she founded and has sustained for thirty years is one of Biography’s most important contributions to the field of life writing. She has decided that with thirty installments in print and online, this would be a very good time to retire. With much gratitude for her presence in the life of this journal, we dedicate this issue to Phyllis Wachter.
This issue of Biography contains two sets of tributes to major figures in the field of life writing who have left us. I will let the writers speak directly about these figures’ contributions and personal qualities, but I will take the opportunity to comment briefly on their importance to this journal.
As the recognized mentor of the entire generation of American autobiography scholars, and therefore a major influence on the creation of the Autobiography Society and the journal a/b: Autobiography Studies, James Olney was for many years a presiding presence in the field. He never published an article or review in Biography, but his 1988 edited collection Studies in Autobiography and his landmark 1998 book Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing were both reviewed carefully, favorably, and at length.
In 2008, we invited him to the IABA conference in Honolulu, but...