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With the memoir boom, life storytelling has become ubiquitous and emerged as a distinct field of study. Reading Autobiography, originally published in 2001, was the first comprehensive critical introduction to life writing in all its forms. Widely adopted for undergraduate and graduate-level courses, it is an essential guide for students and scholars reading and interpreting autobiographical texts and methods across the humanities, social sciences, and visual and performing arts. Thoroughly updated, the second edition of Reading Autobiography is the most complete assessment of life narrative in its myriad forms. It lays out a sophisticated, theoretical approach to life writing and the components of autobiographical acts, including memory, experience, identity, embodiment, space, and agency. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson explore these components, review the history of life writing and the foundations of autobiographical subjectivity, and provide a toolkit for working with twenty-three key concepts. Their survey of innovative forms of life writing, such as autographics and installation self-portraiture, charts recent shifts in autobiographical practice. Especially useful for courses are the appendices: a glossary covering dozens of distinct genres of life writing, proposals for group and classroom projects, and an extensive bibliography.
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Sidonie Smith is Martha Guernsey Colby Collegiate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.
Julia Watson is professor of comparative studies at Ohio State University.
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