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Workshop | Autosociobiography: Global Entanglements of a Literary Phenomenon

Mar 23, 2023 - Mar 25, 2023

Organised by Johanna Bundschuh-van Duikeren (Freie Universität Berlin), Marie Jacquier (Freie Universität Berlin), Peter Löffelbein (Freie Universität Berlin).

Coined by the French writer and Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux, the term autosociobiography has been used to label contemporary texts that systematically combine autobiographical writing and sociological analysis, for example Didier Eribon’s Retour à Reims (2009) and Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari (2017). In France and Germany in particular, autosociobiography quickly established itself as a new and productive literary genre, reflecting the dynamics of class relations at the beginning of the 21st century – as a genre at the intersection of literary representation, production, social commentary and political commitment.

Recent research has focused on these texts as ‘return narratives’ and highlighted their representation of class relations as generational relations. Intertextual references – e.g., between the works of Annie Ernaux, Didier Eribon and Edouard Louis, or the writings of Pierre Bourdieu – have also been identified as significant characteristics.

The workshop aims at expanding this focus by tracing the global entanglements of autosociobiographic texts, that is, the historical, social, transdisciplinary and transcultural dynamics they discuss, represent and perform. How do autosociobiographic texts recalibrate the relationship between literary and sociological modes of writing past and present? What insights may be gained vis-à-vis the literary and critical histories of autobiography, the Bildungsroman, autofiction, autoethnographical writing and other genres less established in current academic discourse? Finally, the workshop is interested in whether the focus of autosociobiographic texts can legitimately be expanded beyond class – to include other intersectional forms of social exclusion and stratification, especially in postcolonial or migration literature.