Auto/Biography and Reputation Politics

International Symposium

6th-7th February 2020


Nadja Gernalzick (Department of English and American Studies, University of Vienna)

Edwina Hagen (Cultural History, Free University Amsterdam)

Martijn Icks (Ancient History, University of Amsterdam)

Jennifer Keohane (Communications Design, University of Baltimore)

Eric Shiraev (School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, Arlington)


In the earliest documents of the genre transmitted from antiquity, biography and its reception are already associated with the creation of positive or negative personal reputations of politicians, artists, scientists or military leaders. Autobiography, in turn, whether spiritual since late antiquity or generally secular since the Enlightenment, has also been used to publicly create and negotiate reputations of its narrators and protagonists. The relation of such reputations created in biography and autobiography to the author figures and historical persons has produced long-standing scholarly and popular debates in terms of fictionality or nonfictionality, semiotic constructedness, and reliability. In the past decades, however, life writings – including biography and autobiography as much as diaries or letters and, more contemporarily, life narratives and egodocuments in media such as painting, cinema, graphic novels, digital formats and photography, for example – have been critically discussed in terms of cultural and national significations, affective patterns, psychologically and legally coded constructions – relating to trauma studies, witnessing and testimonials – or narratological conventions including perspectives, temporalities or individual and collective memory. The discussion of life narratives and their genre conventions, patterns and protocols as established means of creating and destroying reputations  appears to have recently met with only minor interest in the field.

At this juncture, Auto/Biography Studies and Reputation Politics Studies might benefit mutually and strongly from an interdisciplinary collaboration. For a range of studies of reputation politics and reputation management in psychology, communication studies, political sciences and historical science, contemporary methodologies and theories of life writing and life narrative in literary, cultural and media studies provide refined terminologies and tested approaches in respect of the determining effects of generic and narrative conventions, semiotic materiality and medial intransparency, as well as questions of agency, relationality and network structures; and, reversely, for the study of auto/biography, the recently developed categories and critical methods in the study of reputation politics provide new ways for ethical consideration of life narratives by addressing the creation or destruction of life stories in public.

Interdisciplinary and methodologically explicit papers address such critical questions across an international variety of works, genres, media and practices, with attention to theoretical premises of both Auto/Biography Studies and Reputation Politics Studies.



Call for Papers




Department of English and American Studies, Hof 8.3, Campus, Spitalgasse 2-4, University of Vienna, 1090 Wien