Special Section: Interview Special Section: Shiji(Historical Records)Studies Theory Studies History of Life Writing Biography Studies Autobiography Studies Life Writing Resources Film Biography Academic Info More
From the Editor

This issue features two interviews of prestigious biographers whose ideas are impressive and worth sharing. For example, Leo Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor at Harvard University and author of a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography, states the following: “I think the one piece of advice I would give is that a biographer should always choose a subject in whom he or she is deeply interested--and a subject who will repay the labor of close companionship for a considerable period of time.”

Professor Megan Marshall acknowledges that she spent 20 years writing her first biography for referring to archives is too time-consuming. However, she “learned patience from that experience.” Her second biography was less difficult because her subject’s letters and journals were in print. Nevertheless, she stated “I still felt that the documents I did find on my own or encounter in the archives made the book much stronger than if it had all come out of books,” despite the fact that her first biography was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography and the second one a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Choosing a proper subject is the precondition for writing a good biography, for a biographer is supposed to choose a figure he/she is interested in regardless of other reasons. It is recommendable to collect first-hand data in person rather than acquire them in the easiest or the most convenient way, for biography-writing is based on good patience. This is simple truth but valuable to biographers and worth bearing in mind.

Sima Qian’s Shiji(Historical Records)is the greatest work among China’s classical life writings and widely praised by the global life writing community. Though over 2,000 years have passed, its canonical role has not faded away. Biographers are still endeavoring for “the historians'most perfect song and a Li Sao without the rhyme” as a writing aim. Chen Lingling’s paper gives an overview of Japanese scholars’researches on Sima Qian and hisShiji. It is the first time to finish such a daunting job in China! Despite omissions (if any), Japanese scholars’ perspectives, methods and ideas are good reference. The modern significance of Shijion life writing methods has been discussed in our first issue, in which Anglo-American scholars’ researches on the classic proper has been briefed on. It is meaningful to compare them with those of Japanese counterparts. Wang Chengjun and Zhu Ying challenge the literary genre of Shiji, including some long-standing controversial issues in academia. We welcome you to join the discussion.

Chinese scholars demonstrate continuing interest in classical Western biographies too. Samuel Johnson is the founding father of modern Western biographies. Many papers in our journal have elaborated on his Lives of the Poets. This issue sees Sun Yongbin’s analysis of the edificatory function of the work, a long-standing but ever-changing issue in life writing studies.

Life writing enjoys a broad range and there is great room for life writing studies. Precious academic resources lie untapped in many fields and several papers in this issue attempt to fill in the gap. Four weighy papers in the section of “History of Life Writing” are results of major research projects home and abroad, i.e. Yin Dexiang’s review of the biographies of the Chinese Christians composed by the British missionaries in the Late Qing Dynasty and the Early Republican Period of China, Yang Yiwang’s research on Ding Fubao’s Lives of Ancient Famous Doctors, Wong Sin Kiong’s analysis of biographies of the Nanyang Chinese in The World’s Chinese Students’ Journal, and Yuan Qi’s discussion of Taiwanese life writings under Japanese occupation. In addition, many other papers expand the borders of China’s academic research, such as Ma Yilun’s survey of Russian autobiographical writing and researches since the twentieth century, Zhu Chunfa’s exploration of the concept of ethnographic autobiography for subalterns in A Daughter of Han, and Hu Yan’s study brings the Christian Literature for Society’s biography translation effortsin modern China to the life writing scholarship.

Since our maiden publication, young scholars’ innovation to autobiographical approaches have been notable. This issue features Zhao Shankui’s perusal of Y. C. Kuan’s autobiography, from which Zhao discovers the metaphor of mother-father and explores its different meanings and the Kuan’s hidden attitude. Xue Yufeng discovers the art of paradox in Paul Auster’s memoir The Invention of Solitude and discusses its primary forms and functions. New approaches are imperative, to the extent that the autobiographical studies are a hot topic in the modern academic community and cover many complex issues.

Philippe Forest introduces a popular form of self writing in France, i.e. autofiction and briefs on the origination, history and status quo and his own autofiction works. France boasts the birthplace of literary ideas and French scholars have made essential innovations to modern autobiography and life writing theories, so the concept, theory and practice of autofiction deserve due attention.

It is difficult to define autobiography. New forms and new concepts continue to emerge. A few papers touch upon this issue. Henk Vynckier and John Rodden discusses broadly in their talk “The Life of the Mind in the Digital Age,” in which the important idea is that the interview is “a serious literary genre,”“veiled autobiography,” and “the act of listening as the softest of the sciences and the hardest of the arts.”

Three papers concern the topic of film biography. Ma Jingchun’s “The Media Interpretation of Chinese Modern Writers’ Image” focuses on five Chinese film biographies of writers in recent two decades and perceives their shortcomings in common. Wu Couchun examines the history of a failed film-making of Lu Xun: A Biography, though the film script had gone through five revisions. Ma Lunpeng compares six film biographies of Qiu Jin produced in China’s mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan in over six decades and conclude their styles as well as weaknesses and strengths. The wide discrepancy in the three papers’ topics does not matter in their arriving at a common conclusion: the production of film biography is difficult. There are multitudinous issues to explore in here.

Thebiennial IABA-Europe Conference was held in London in June, 2017. Huang Rong’s review of this event, “Life Writing, Europe, and New Media,” presents rich information new and thought-provoking to our readers, such as the digital turn of life writing studies, intersection between media and life writing, life writing teaching and the Great Diary Project. European scholars’ understanding of identity is good reference, for the identity in life writing is what Chinese readers are interested in. We have received the invitation from European scholars to participate in their discussions and we also welcome your papers on this topic.

To further adapt to the international academic standards and needs of the digital age, our journal will be reformatted since this issue. We welcome papers from all scholars as before. Please follow our new style to process your paper.