Introduction: life writing and critical practice

Jensen, Meg and Jolly, Margaretta (2011) Introduction: life writing and critical practice. Literature Compass, 8(12), pp. 875-877. ISSN (online) 1741-4113


Contemporary critical practice is becoming increasingly self-reflective, with first person commentary and subjective musings appearing in academic texts produced across disciplines. On the other hand, as the number of writing practitioners in the academy mounts, their works reflect a growing awareness of, and engagement with, the critical and theoretical debates that surround creative practice. Nowhere is this interchange between theory and practice more prevalent, however, than in the discipline of life writing, a field concerned with the forces at work on the borderland between the self or subject and the performance of that self in communicable form. Yet the two groups, life writing critics and life writing creatives, often remain mutually suspicious and their relationship under-theorised. This Special Cluster of Literature Compass brings together scholarly readings, both critical and creative in form, which interrogate the place of life writing in critical practice. These essays were developed through discussions and debates at the 7th Biennial International Auto/Biographical Association Conference at University of Sussex in June 2010. IABA has led the professionalization of life writing as a field of literary critical debate and is increasingly being used as a forum for life writers as well. In this Special Cluster, leading figures in the field, both critics and practitioners, begin a dialogue on the developing phenomenon of creative/critical interface in life writing, and make suggestions for new pathways for the future.

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