In preparation for this summer’s IABA regional conferences, SNS interviewed Professor Craig Howes about the history, present, and future(s) of the field.
Student and New Scholar Network (SNS): Now that a number of the originating voices in the field of life narrative studies, as it’s now called, have retired or are in the process of retiring, how does a retrospective of the field appear to you? How might a retrospective of the IABA community appear to you as well?
Craig Howes (CH): Well, for starters, I suppose I should probably think about retiring myself, because I didn’t know that we had shifted from life writing to life narrative studies. But given the increasing interest in graphic texts, virtually everything online, and the intense engagements with different kinds of representative hybrids, I heartily approve of the new label. (Although to be bothersome, I wonder about “narrative,” partially due to Lauren Berlant’s call to us at the IABA International conference in Sussex in 2010 to think more about the “life” part of our terms, and partially due to my own questions, stimulated by Marlene Kadar’s earlier work, and Anna Poletti’s more recent thoughts, about how much sequence is actually necessary for something to be a “narrative.”)
As for my retrospective gaze, I came into the field in between points of origin. Although the journal Biography started publishing in 1978, and prophetically as an interdisciplinary quarterly, the body of work that coalesced into a recognizable life writing field in North America was primarily being developed by those who came to be associated with the journal A/B: Auto/Biography Studies, and in Europe and elsewhere with path-breaking scholarship on working class autobiography, testimonio, diary studies, sociological approaches to narrative, and so on. Continue reading “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Discussing the History and Future of the Field with Craig Howes”