Life-writing and philosophy: call for papers

Life Writing is calling for submissions to a special themed edition on Philosophy and Life Writing, to be guest edited by Christopher Cowley and D. L. Mahieu.

Philosophers have long been interested in the nature of the self and in the meaning and narrative structure of human lives. Many philosophers have themselves written autobiographies. Descartes’s Meditations, Augustine’s Confessions and Rousseau’s Confessions are all frequently cited as early influences on the writing of autobiography. Yet there has been very little direct, theoretical and systematic interest from philosophers in the modern boom in autobiographical writing.

Christopher Cowley recently addressed this gap in his book The Philosophy of Autobiography (University of Chicago Press, 2015). In this special themed edition of Life Writing, he plans to open up further discussion, together with his co-editor, D. L. LeMahieu, an intellectual historian and the author of two books and many articles on British cultural history.

  • Classic philosophic life writing (Augustine, Rousseau, Mill, Sartre etc).
  • How philosophers fashion their life narratives compared to other disciplines.
  • The relationship between subjectivities, truth [?] and philosophic abstractions.
  • The influences of class, gender, race and nation; and the intersections of temporality and life narrative.
  • The role of faith in one’s self-understanding (perhaps with a reference to Kierkegaard).
  • The limits of narrative in the auto/biographical genre (perhaps with reference to Ricoeur).
  • The problem of understanding people in different times and places: historical biographies.
  • Can there be a complete secular biography of a devout religious believer?
  • To what degree should the biographer judge the subject?
  • The balance between luck and self-determination in the biography.
  • How the meaning of a person’s life changes over time: different biographies of the same person.
  • The relative advantages of writing a biography about a living person and a dead person.
  • The place of vanity and humility in autobiography.
  • Internalised oppressive self-conceptions and autobiography.
  • The right of response from those written about in others’ memoirs/autobiographies.
  • Do dying autobiographers have nothing to lose, and therefore are most authentic?
  • Autobiography as revenge and punishment.

Full details on the journal website.


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