Life Writing in the Long Run: A Smith and Watson Autobiography Studies Reader (2017)

Life Writing in the Long Run gathers twenty-one essays by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson written in collaboration or solo and published over the last quarter-century. It includes the introductions to their five edited collections; essays focused on such autobiographical genres as autoethnography, Bildungsroman, diary, digital life writing, genealogy, graphic memoir, human rights witnessing, manifesto; and essays engaging the key concepts of authenticity, performativity, postcoloniality, relationality, and visuality.

Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times (2016)

After a long career in higher education, Sidonie Smith offers Manifesto for the Humanities as a reflective contribution to the current academic conversation over the place of the Humanities in the 21st century. Her focus is on doctoral education and opportunities she sees for its reform. Grounding this manifesto in background factors contributing to current “crises” in the humanities, Smith advocates for a 21st century doctoral education responsive to the changing ecology of humanistic scholarship and teaching. She elaborates a more expansive conceptualization of coursework and dissertation, a more robust, engaged public humanities, and a more diverse, collaborative, and networked sociality.

Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (2001, Second Edition 2010)

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 its heterogeneous forms. It is at once a theoretical discussion of the dynamic features of life writing and its particular characteristics; a history of studies of life writing; a set of micro-readings of diverse autobiographical texts; a how-to guide for asking questions of autobiographical texts and practices; and a compendium of the genres of lifewriting. 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.

Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition (2004)

Personal narratives have become one of the most potent vehicles for advancing human rights claims across the world. These two contemporary domains, personal narrative and human rights, literature and international politics, are commonly understood to operate on separate planes. This study however, examines the ways these intersecting realms unfold and are enfolded in one another in ways both productive of and problematic for the achievement of social justice. Human Rights and Narrated Lives explores what happens when autobiographical narratives are produced, received, and circulated in the field of human rights. It asks how personal narratives emerge in local settings; how international rights discourse enables and constrains individual and collective subjectivities in narration; how personal narratives circulate and take on new meanings in new contexts; and how and under what conditions they feed into, affect, and are affected by the reorganizations of politics in the post cold war, postcolonial, globalizing human rights contexts.

Moving Lives: Twentieth-Century Women’s Travel Writing (2001)

As technological advances increased the ease, speed, and reach of transportation, more and more women took to the air, to the road and the rail, and headed for points elsewhere. As they mastered new modes of mobility and then narrated their journeys, these women travelers left cultural ideas of femininity as sedentary, subordinate, and constrained in the dust. In Moving Lives Sidonie Smith explores how women’s travel and travel writing in the twentieth century were shaped by particular modes of mobility, asking how the form of travel affected the kind of narrative written.

Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century (1993)

Sidonie Smith explores how the excluded use autobiography as a means of ‘talking back.’ These writers are not passive subjects of official autobiographical discourse; they are agents resisting memory and creative constraints. Smith’s readings look to the relationship between subjectivity and autobiographical practice, asking questions such as: What kind of subject speaks throughout the text? How does the writer manipulate the ‘I’? Smith considers the works of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Jacobs, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, Annie Dillard, Cherríe Moraga, Jo Spence, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Donna Haraway.

A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (1987)

A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography sees the woman who writes autobiographies as a persistent and resilient interrogator of the prevailing ideology of gender and the androcentric fictions it sustains, including the very idea of “autobiography.” After critiquing the androcentric bias of twentieth-century autobiography criticism, Smith articulates a theoretical framework through which she reads representative women’s texts, among them the fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe, the seventeenth-century writer Margaret Cavendish, the eighteenth-century transgressive cross-dresser Charlotte Charke, and the nineteenth-century philosopher Harriet Martineau. She concludes with a reading of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, a postmodern autobiography that takes as its explicit subject the empowerments and the imprisonments of autobiographical storytelling.

Where I’m Bound: Patterns of Slavery and Freedom in Black American Autobiography (1974)

The earliest African American autobiographies, the slave narratives, established certain prototypal patterns, both thematic and structural, that recur again and again in the long tradition of African American life writing. The ex-slave narrated the story of the struggle to break from an enslaving community and the struggle to break into a community allowing self-expression and fulfillment in a social role. Increasingly complex and ambiguous manifestations of that pattern emerged in the autobiographies of succeeding generations of African Americans. In addition to exploring several slave narratives, Smith reads autobiographical works by Booker T. Washington, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Claude Brown, and Maya Angelou.

Edited Books

Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance (2002)

Modern and contemporary women’s artistic production of autobiography frequently occurs at the interfaces of image and text. The many permutations of words and images in all their modes of production – photograph, pose, invocation, written narrative, sculpture, dance, diatribe – create countless possibilities of expression, and this volume charts some of the ways in which women artists are seizing these possibilities.
Editors Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson have been at the vanguard of the study of women’s self-representation, and here have collected leading critics’ and scholars’ thoughts on artistic fusions of the visual and autobiographical.

The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics, and the Games (2000)

The Olympics at the Millennium offers groundbreaking essays that explore the cultural politics of the Games. The contributors investigate such topics as the emergence of women athletes as cultural commodities, the orchestrated spectacles of the opening and closing ceremonies, and the alternative sport culture offered via the Gay Games.

Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (1998)

Women, Autobiography, Theory is the first comprehensive guide to the burgeoning field of women’s autobiography, drawing into one volume the most significant theoretical discussions on women’s life writing of the last two decades.
The authoritative introduction by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson surveys writing about women’s lives from the women’s movement of the late 1960s to the present. It also relates theoretical positions in women’s autobiography studies to postmodern, poststructuralist, postcolonial, and feminist analyses.

Writing New Identities: Gender, Nation, and Immigration in Contemporary Europe (1997)

The essays in Writing New Identities address the complexities, and explore the inter-relationships of nationalisms, genders, and representational practices of the peoples of the New Europe at the end of the 20th century.

De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography (1992)

A diverse and widely inclusive collection of essays that frames the frontier of critical investigation – colonial and postcolonial autobiography of the embodied subject. The volume includes essays on women in historically colonial, transitional, and currently postcolonial environments; essays from various borders of marginality; essays on women writing from diverse class positions; essays exploring the complicities of authors in colonizing practices.

Getting A Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography (1996)

From resumes to personal ads, from talk shows to self-help groups, autobiographical storytelling has become a central theme of American culture. Visual media offer possible lives through soap operas, talk shows, and “lifestyle programming,” and newspapers and magazines frame their stories as “personality profiles.” Exploring occasions during which people produce and consume personal narratives, the essays in this aim to expand our understanding of how we negotiate and commodify identity.


Before They Could Vote: American Women’s Autobiographical Writing, 1819–-1919 (2006)

The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition, some well known, some forgotten over generations, who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections – from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches – span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly.

Indigenous Australian Voices: A Reader (1998)

An impressive collection of the poetry, artwork, and prose of thirty-six contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and artists. It is an exploration of “the dreaming” that organizes the text, in the sense that individual and kinship relationships to the origin stories of “dreamtime” inform both a resistance to the genocidal heritage of Australian colonization as well as a unique focus for indigenous identity.