Reviews and Reports

Life Writing Research Past and Present: Interview with Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson


  • Sarah Herbe University of Salzburg
  • Julia Novak University of Vienna



book review


On 16 November, 2017, the Austrian “Netzwerk Biographieforschung”,1 a network of life writing scholars and practitioners from various disciplines (history, literary studies, pedagogics, archival work, art, musicology) hosted its twelfth workshop at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. The organisers (Sarah Herbe, Julia Lajta-Novak and Melanie Unseld) were delighted to welcome two very special guests: Prof. Sidonie Smith and Prof. Julia Watson, whose vital contribution to autobiography theory need hardly be explained in the context of this journal. They had been invited on the occasion of the recent publication of Life Writing in the Long Run: A Smith and Watson Autobiography Studies Reader (Maize Books, 2016, available free online), which features a cross-section of their scholarship in the field over three decades. The following is an excerpt from the interview Sarah Herbe and Julia Lajta-Novak conducted with Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, which addressed the differences between autobiographical and biographical modes, recent theoretical interventions in the field of life-writing studies, and topical issues such as the impact of “post-truth” on auto/biography scholars and the implications of the #MeToo movement as a massive autobiographical project. This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) under Grant V543-G23.

Author Biographies

Sarah Herbe, University of Salzburg

Sarah Herbe is associate professor of British literature and culture at the department of English and American Studies, University of Salzburg. In 2017, she completed her habilitation thesis on paratextual life writing in English poetry books. Recent publications include a co-edited collection on British Autobio graphy in the 20th and 21st Centuries (with Gabriele Linke 2017) and an essay on “Teaching Life-Writing in a Blended Learning Environment” (a/b: Auto/ Biography Studies 2018). For more information, see

Julia Novak, University of Vienna

Julia Lajta-Novak is an Elise Richter Research Fellow at the Department of English, University of Vienna. She is currently working on a book project on biographical novels about historical women artists and is the author of Gemeinsam Lesen (Lit 2007—a book on reading groups) and Live Poetry: An Integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance (Rodopi 2011). She has recently co-edited Experiments in Life-Writing (Palgrave 2017) and serves on the editorial boards of the European Journal of Life Writing and The Journal of Historical Fictions.





Reviews and Reports