Since Fall 2014 Julia Watson is professor emerita in Comparative Studies, an interdisciplinary, PhD-granting department in the Arts & Humanities division of the College of Arts and Sciences, where her focus was in the Comparative Literature track. (Other tracks in the unit are Folklore, Religious Studies, American and Ethnic Studies, and Science and Technology in the Humanities.) Watson’s area of expertise is autobiography studies, a field in which she remains active internationally and has several ongoing projects.
With co-author Sidonie Smith, Watson has published Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (second, expanded edition, 2010). A leading theoretical text in the field, it has sold over ten thousand copies. They have also introduced and co-edited five volumes: Before They Could Vote: American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819-1919 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006); Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2002); Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998); Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography (University of Minnesota Press, 1996); De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography (University of Minnesota Press, 1992). A collection of their essays, Autobiographical Inquiries, is forthcoming (Maize Books, University of Michigan Press).
Smith and Watson have also published several influential essays in the field, including: "Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation" (in Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, 2013; short version republished in the Chronicle of Higher Education); “What about False Witnessing? The Limits of Authenticity and Verification” (Routledge Companion to Human Rights and Literature, 2015); and "The Rumpled Bed of Autobiography: Extravagant Lives, Extravagant Questions" (Biography, 2001). Watson has also published essays in several areas of life writing including, recently, contemporary memoir (“Patti Smith Kicks in the Walls of Memoir: Relational Lives and “the Right Voice” in Just Kids,” for a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 2015); graphic memoir (“’Our Selves Were All We Had:’ Parsing the Autobiographical in Fun Home,” forthcoming for the Modern Languages Association); autoethnography (“Strategic Autoethnography and American Ethnicity Debates: The Metrics of Authenticity in When I Was Puerto Rican,” for Life Writing, 2013); and posthumanism (“Visual Diary as Prosthetic Practice in Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings” Biography, 2012).
In February 2016 she gave three invited lectures in Germany: “How to Read Autobiographical Narration,” Forum für Literaturwissenschaftliche Japanforschung, Free University, Berlin; “Miriam Katin’s Autographics and Jewish Women’s Life Writing,” Zentrum für Jüdische Studien, Berlin; and "Self-Presentation and “Authenticity" in American Life Writing,” Annual Meeting of the Historians in the German Association of American Studies, Tutzing. With Sidonie Smith in September 2015 she gave conference papers at King’s College, London, and at the Paris Ouest FAAAM Colloquium.
Since 2010 Watson has served as an outside evaluator (for dissertations, tenure or promotion) to: the Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, Budapest; the Faculty of Education, Humanities, and Law, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia; the Department of English, McMaster University, Canada; the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia; the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan; the Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of California, Berkeley; and the Department of English, University of Texas, Austin. She is currently on the advisory or editorial boards of A/B: Auto/Biography Studies; Women’s Studies Quarterly; the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing Series; the Palgrave-St. Martin’s book series on “Literary Anthropology”; and the forthcoming three-volume Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction, ed. Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf (de Gruyter).
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