From first paper to prize-winner: a journey with The Autobiography Society

Insight from Arnaud Schmitt: professor at the University of Bordeaux, France

For many researchers, the connections made with societies and associations can have a great impact on their academic careers, works, and future. We caught up with Arnaud Schmitt, a professor at the University of Bordeaux, to hear about how his relationship with, and support from, The Autobiography Society has benefitted him over the years.

“My first contact with The Autobiography Society was through its journal, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, when I published an article entitled Making the Case for Self-narration Against Autofiction in Volume 25 (1), 2010. This article was, in a way, my conclusion to years of research on autofiction and cross-genres, and it was my first article published in English in a major academic journal. This was a great opportunity to reach a wider readership as opposed to my publications in French, even in prominent French journals. This was the starting point of various collaborations, or simply fruitful exchanges, with colleagues from different countries.

The scope (and by this, I mean both the reception and response) of my research was suddenly radically enhanced after publishing my paper in The Autobiography Society’s journal. I can’t stress enough the positive impact this publication in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies has had on my career, but I will give one telling example. Among the very enriching dialogues this article triggered off with researchers from all over the world, one in particular led to a very rewarding collaboration with my Danish colleague Stefan Kjerkegaard of Aarhus University; a collaboration which, among other things, took the form of the co-authorship of an article, later published in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies entitled Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: A Real Life in a Novel.

A loop was looped in a way; the first article making the second possible, and the latter reflecting on some of the ideas developed in the former. This joint publication was a major satisfaction for me in terms of research, but also of friendship. However, the “icing on the cake” came later as, much to our surprise, we were awarded the 2016 Hogan Prize – an unexpected honor. Stefan Kjerkegaard and I attended and presented papers during the 2017 IABA Europe conference; an opportunity to meet new colleagues and to realize how dynamic but also welcoming The Autobiography Society is.

What I am trying to say in this summary of my very special relationship with The Autobiography Society and its journal, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, is that this connection has greatly impacted my career. But, more importantly, it has also greatly impacted upon my approach to autobiography and life writing in general in such a positive way. In other words, thank you Autobiography Society!”

Find out more about The Autobiography Society, and explore their journal, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies.

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Arnaud Schmitt is a professor at the University of Bordeaux. His field of research is American literature and autobiography. His latest book, The Phenomenology of Autobiography: Making it Real has just been published (Routledge, 2017).