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Tracing the Autobiographical

Marlene Kadar and Susanna Egan; Linda Warley and Jeanne Perreault, editors

Life Writing Series

Paper 288 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-476-8

Release Date: May 2005

Online discount: 25%

$48.99  $36.74


eBook availability

The essays in Tracing the Autobiographical work with the literatures of several nations to reveal the intersections of broad agendas (for example, national ones) with the personal, the private, and the individual. Attending to ethics, exile, tyranny, and hope, the contributors listen for echoes and murmurs as well as authoritative declarations. They also watch for the appearance of auto/biography in unexpected places, tracing patterns from materials that have been left behind. Many of the essays return to the question of text or traces of text, demonstrating that the language of autobiography, as well as the textualized identities of individual persons, can be traced in multiple media and sometimes unlikely documents, each of which requires close textual examination. These “unlikely documents” include a deportation list, an art exhibit, reality TV, Web sites and chat rooms, architectural spaces, and government memos, as well as the more familiar literary genres—a play, the long poem, or the short story.

Interdisciplinary in scope and contemporary in outlook, Tracing the Autobiographical is a welcome addition to autobiography scholarship, focusing on non-traditional genres and on the importance of location and place in life writing.

Read the chapter “Gender, Nation, and Self-Narration: Three Generations of Dayan Women in Palestine/Israel” by Bina Freiwald on the Concordia University Library Spectrum Research Repository website.

Marlene Kadar is an associate professor in humanities and women’s studies at York University, and the former director of the graduate programme in interdisciplinary studies.

Linda Warley teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo. She has published articles in journals such as Canadian Literature, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, and Reading Canadian Autobiography, a special issue of Essays on Canadian Writing.

Jeanne Perreault is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Calgary and is the author of Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography.

Susanna Egan is a professor in the department of English at the University of British Columbia. Her most recent monograph is titled Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography.


“Since 1995, the Life Writing series has established itself as a major forum for showcasing primary sources and theoretical work in the field of autobiography studies in Canada.... International in scope Tracing the Autobiographical unsettles the generic boundaries of auto/biography (the slash consisten witha programmatic effort to blur the lines) and offers a variety of innovative reading strategies and interdisciplinary approaches.... Reading these contributions is not only an intellectual feast, but also an ethical encounter with lives lived by people who have left only fragments or traces of themselves.... Resonating with the themes of ‘ethics, tyranny, and hope’ several of the essays present a testimony of pain and erasure that leaves the reader profoundly moved.”

— Eva C. Karpinski, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2005

“This is a fascinating collection, full of innovative reading practices and ‘egodocuments.’... All of these critics are attuned to the more performative notions of selfhood, the contingent, and historical projections of the self in texts.... Autobiography writing and critism is now sharp and exciting, and as it happens much of the best is also Canadian.... Tracing the Autobiographical ... ”

— Gillian Whitlock, Canadian Literature

“The editors of this volume are to be commended for their daring inner- and inter-generic redefinitions of autobiography. Tracing the Autobiographical takes the navel-gazing of autobiography genre criticism out for a cultural studies spin.... This volume is for thos who are eager to rethink boundaries.... All essays are refreshing and spot-on, particularly where they combine genre theoretical reflections with historically specific contextualization and close analytical readings.... All in all, I highly recommend this volume to anyone with an interest in changing their literary approach to the genre of autobiography. Tracing the Autobiographical is sure to reenergize the discussion of generic limitations, and I hope it will do more: encourage readers to problematize and theorize the relationships between selves, others/Others, and their myriad mediation practices in the age of New Media and postmemory.”

— Sunka Simon, The International Fiction Review