1st Edition

Career Narratives and Academic Womanhood In the Spaces Provided

Edited By Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle Copyright 2023
    290 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Career Narratives and Academic Womanhood is a collection of essays in which life writing scholars theorize their early-career, mid-career, and late-career experiences with the documents that shape their professional lives as women: the institutional auto/biography of employment letters, curriculum vitae, tenure portfolios, promotion applications, publication and conference bios, academic website profiles, and other self-authored narratives required by institutions to compete for opportunities and resources. The essays explore the privacy laws, peer review, disciplinary standards, digital media, and other standardizing tools, practices and policies that impact women’s self-construction at pivotal junctures at which they promote themselves in the spaces of academic careers.

    Introduction: "The Unlikely Autobiography of Women’s Career Documentation"

    Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle (USA)

    Chapter 1:

    "Vitae Statistics: The Anti-Autobiographical Imperative of Academic Self-Documentation"

    Aimee Morrison (Canada)

    Chapter 2:

    "Docile Bodies (of Work): Coaxing the Neoliberal Academic via the Online Researcher Profile"

    Emma Maguire (Australia)

    Chapter 3:

    "Sign ‘In the Space Provided’: Academic Email Signatures as Sites of Narrative, Branding and Refusal?"

    Jennifer Poole and May Friedman (Canada)

    Chapter 4:

    "Messing with the Metrics and Setting Our Own Standards: Academic Women’s Efforts to Reframe Success"

    Alison L. Black, Sandra Elsom, and Vicki Schriever (Australia)

    Chapter 5:

    "‘Making Spreadsheets Won’t Get You Tenure’: Autoethnography, Women Administrative Faculty, and the Genres that Make Them (In)Visible"

    Candis Bond (USA)

    Chapter 6:

    "‘Not Another ARC Summer’: Grant Applications and Life Narratives of Motherhood"
    Kate Douglas (Australia)

    Chapter 7:

    "Academic Motherhood and the Complex Banalities of a Curriculum Vitae"

    Leena Käosaar (Estonia)

    Chapter 8:

    "Getting an Academic Life: The Untranslatable, or How to Curate a Polish-Canadian CV"

    Eva Karpinski (Canada)

    Chapter 9:

    "Crossing the Lines: Using Personnel File Documents to Negotiate Embodied Space"

    Cynthia Huff (USA)

    Chapter 10:

    "How a Lifetime of Academic Administration Gave Me the Freedom to Write a Sisterlocking Academic Memoir: An Interview with Valerie Lee"

    Julia Watson and Valerie Lee (USA)

    Chapter 11:

    "The Poetic Cover Letter: On Crafting Paradoxical Personas"

    Vicki Hallet (Canada)

    Chapter 12:

    "Mothers and Myths: A Collaborative Autoethnographic Account of Navigating Domestic Academic Life"

    Vanessa Marr and Jess Moriarty (UK)

    Chapter 13:

    "Post-it as Praxis: Counternarrating Non-linearity and Multiplicity in Academic Lives" Elizabeth Rodriguez and Marion Wolfe (USA)

    Chapter 14:

    "Dossiers in Crip Time: Reclaiming a Space for Crazy in the Academy"

    Ally Day (USA)

    Chapter 15:

    "The Same Self/ie: Blurring Academic, Creative, and Personal Identity through the Taking and Sharing of Self-portraits"

    Marina Deller (Australia)

    Chapter 16:

    "Spilling Out of the Spaces Provided: How Occupying the Academic Office Becomes an Autobiographical Act"

    Laura Beard and Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle (Canada & USA)


    Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle is Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. Her work appears in Life Writing, European Journal of Life Writing, Persona Studies, and a/b: Auto/Biography Studies. She was the 2021-22 Fulbright Research Chair of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada. Her book, Américanas, Autocracy, and Autobiographical Innovation: Overwriting the Dictator (2020) is published with Routledge Press in its Auto/biography Studies Series. Her current project, tentatively titled Life’s Work: Career Narrative as Autobiography in the North American Academy, is a study of functional forms of life writing in academic careers. She serves as Editor in Chief of a/b: Auto/biography Studies.

    “The essays in Career Narratives and Academic Womanhood cast light on the exhausting demand that women squeeze their lives into the metrics of academic success. By highlighting how forms that purport to quantify and document women’s academic success obscure their actual lives and labor, they map out the pitfalls of translating life into career narratives that structurally disadvantage women. Against the mandatory uses of life writing in institutional forms of evaluation, the writers develop feminist and intersectional ways to make their work count otherwise.” 

    --Leigh Gilmore, author of The #Me Too Effect (2023) and the newly rereleased The Limits of Autobiography (2023)


    “The auto/biographical essays in this provocative collection document the persistence of stifling patriarchal norms and forms in the western academy. More importantly, they also document the many shrewd stratagems women faculty on three continents have devised to subvert “the official story” the patriarchal academy decrees. Kudos to Ortiz-Vilarelle and her penetrating colleagues!”

    --Joycelyn Moody, Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio and editor of A History of African American Autobiography (2021).


    “Across the span of their careers, academic women are required to produce narratives of their professional lives, their quantifiable scholarly achievements, research agendas, teaching philosophies, service histories, future plans. They now find themselves curating academic self-presentations across a number of digital platforms. These are narrated lives constrained by professional and institutional norms. In this edgy, provocative collection, Career Narratives and Academic Womanhood: In the Spaces Provided, Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle presents women academics mobilizing scholarly knowledge of autobiography studies, feminist theory, critical race studies, and ethnography to probe the sociocultural politics of evaluative self-narration and -promotion within the neoliberal university, with its enduring masculinist and racialized model of belonging and success. Sometimes focus turns to critique of suffocating expectations of self-narration in standardized modes, the tenure dossier, the academic CV. Sometimes emphasis falls on the agentic forging of alternative practices of self-presentation in counter-forms and media, among them academic selfie, collaborative narration, and curation of autobiographical objects in women’s offices. Collectively, these forays into autotheory and autoethnography ground the larger message, for all professional women, about the politics of stultifying norms and the joys of everyday autobiographical practices that acknowledge and incorporate material, expressive, multimedial, poetic, and collective means of knowing oneself in often inhospitable spaces.”

    --Sidonie Smith, Mary Fair Croushore Professor of the Humanities at the University of Michigan, USA and Director of the Institute for Humanities.