Introduction: Life Writing in International Contexts

Marlene Kadar, Jeanne Perreault, Linda Warley
In this double issue of ARIEL, it is our intention to continue the work of contemporary life writing scholars in English language studies who either appreciate or question the potentially monolithic identifier of one language and its political, linguistic, and geographic consequences. We invited contributions that focused on cross-cultural and postcolonial explorations of identity and place in autobiographical texts, but we had not anticipated that the response would be so great, or, more
more » ... eat, or, more importantly , that authors would be so careful to parse the generalizations embedded in the way we had ourselves envisioned difference in the context of the formidable life writing genres. Only occasionally do these essays use these now frail terms, "cross-cultural" and "postcolonial"; but they all respond to the traditions in which these terms have flourished. From the outset, the field of life writing has developed alongside feminist , postcolonial, and psychoanalytic understandings of meaning, and scholars have addressed urgent questions of genre, gender, and politics. Although much of the early and ongoing critique of the "Western man" model of autobiography has been undertaken by feminist scholars, post-colonial and other non-Western life writers and their critics have often combined feminist and postcolonial methods to demonstrate that life writing has always been embedded in and attentive to different national, ethnic, and historical contexts. 1 Over the past three decades, autobiography and its variants (diaries, letters, journals, ego documents, memoir, documentary film, video, live dramatic performance pieces, and indigenous oral narrative, etc.) have become increasingly important and have gained the attention of scholars who found in life writings a rich literature that could open up ways of understanding experience-based narratives of geographical and social places and historical periods. Great historical forces-wars, eco