Conference Beyond Boundaries: Authorship and Readership in Life Writing
The two-day conference focuses on the question how authors and readers matter in life writing. It explores similarities and differences in self-representaton by adult and young authors and it discusses to what extent readers' age plays a role in how they are addressed in life narratives.
In The Limits of Life Writing David McCooey (2017) argues that in life-writing studies, the concept of limits or boundaries plays a central role. Since the rise of auto/biography studies in the 1970s and 1980s critical attention has been paid to generic limits and the limits concerning the auto/biographical subject. With respect to the former, discussions have evolved in particular around the boundaries between literary and factual writing, and between verbal, graphic, audio-visual and digital forms of life writing. In regard to the latter, since the 1990s academics have given attention to the expansion of auto/biographical subjects previously marginalized, which has deepened, among other things, the cross-cultural understanding of experience and identity. This expansion of auto/biographical subjects, but also the rise of social media as a medium for life writing have contested the limits of selfhood.
Life writing for different audiences
However, some other limits have gone largely unnoticed in life-writing research so far. Two of them will be the center of attention during this conference, one having to do with readership, and the other concerned with authorship. Until now little attention has been paid to the boundaries between life writing for adults on the one hand and life writing for young readers on the other. Crossing these boundaries can provide fruitful debates about how the reader matters and how studying the reception and addressed audiences of life writing is important.
Life writing by adults and young people
Another issue that has not received much attention in life writing research is the boundary between life writing by adult authors and life narratives by young people. As Douglas and Poletti (2016) argue, the contribution of young writers to life writing has so far been largely overlooked. How do they relate to narratives by adults? How similar or different are the ways in which adult and young writers engage in modes of self-representation? And what is the influence of social media on life writing by young people?