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Julia Watson

Photo of Julia Watson

Julia Watson

Professor Emerita, Academy Professor



451 Hagerty Hall
1775 S. College Rd
Columbus, OH

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Office Hours

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Areas of Expertise

  • Theorizing Autobiography
  • Life Narrative
  • Feminist Theory and Women's Writing


  • Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine

My books with Sidonie Smith include Life Writing in the Long Run: A Smith & Watson Autobiography Studies Reader (Michigan Publishing Services, 2017, print, e-book, and open-access at http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9739969) and Reading Autobiography: A Guide to Interpreting Life Narratives (revised edition, Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2010) and five co-edited collections (see below). A selection of my essays and lectures also appears below. My research and teaching interests include life narrative, autobiography theory, feminist theory and women's writing, .Below is a list of selected publications and activities since 2014. I have also published a collection of poems, In the Whirlwind (2016), and am at work on a memoir.

Collections and Anthologies (including introductions) co-edited with Sidonie Smith:
Before They Could Vote: American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819-1919. “Introduction: Living in Public,” (3-22). University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance. Introduction: "Mapping Women's Self-Representation at Visual/Narrative Interfaces," (1-46). University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. “Introduction: Situating Subjectivity in Women’s Autobiographical Practices,” (3-52). University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography. “Introduction” (1-24). University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography. Introduction: “De/Colonization and the Politics of Discourse in Women’s Autobiographical Practices,” (xiii-xxxi ). University of Minnesota Press, 1992.


“Metalepsis in Autobiographical Narrative.” With Sidonie Smith. European Journal of Life Writing, VIII, 2019, 1-27.  https://doi.org/10.21827/ejlw.8.35479

“Auto/biographics and Graphic Histories Made for the Classroom: Logicomix and Abina and the Important Men” With Sidonie Smith. For the Oxford Handbook of Comic Book Studies, ed. Frederick Aldama, 2019.http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190917944.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780190917944-e-28?rskey=wdxD3W&result=1

“’Our Selves Were All We Had:’ Parsing the Autobiographical in Fun Home.” In Approaches to Teaching Fun Home, ed. Judith Kegan Gardiner, Publications of the Modern Languages Association, 2018, 55-65.

“The Exquisite Ironies of Philippe Lejeune: Nine Auto-Anti-Theses.” In European Journal of Life Writing, VII (2018), 9-18. Republished in Cher Philippe: Festschrift for Philippe Lejeune, Amsterdam: Panchaud, 2018. https://ejlw.eu/article/view/31910/29318

“Contrapuntal Reading in Women’s Comics: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Ellen Forney’s Marbles, With Sidonie Smith. In Women's Life Writing and Practice of Reading: She Reads to Write Herself. Ed. Corinne Bigot et al., Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2018, 21-47.

“The New World of Republishing in Open Access: A View from the Author’s Side” (in consultation with Sidonie Smith). Journal of Scholarly Publishing, January 2018, 232-47.  Featured article in February 2018 issue of Informed Librarian Online. https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/jsp.49.2.231

 “Parsua Bashi’s Nylon Road: Visual Witnessing and the Critique of Neoliberalism in Iranian Women’s Graphic Memoir.” In "Contemporary Muslim Women's Voices" Special Issue, Gender Forum, Cologne, Germany 73-101. (A shortened and revised form of my earlier essay on Nylon Road in Life Writing in the Long Run.) Online at genderforum.org  

“Virtual Play, Visible Lives: The New Subjects of Online Environments.” With Sidonie Smith. In Sich selbst aufs Spiel setzen. Spiel als Technik und Medium von Subjektivieren, ed. Christian Moser and Regine Strätling. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2016, 307-24. (Version of "Virtually Me.”)

 “Patti Smith Kicks in the Walls of Memoir: Relational Lives and “the Right Voice” in Just Kids.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies special issue, "Auto/Biography across the Americas," 30.1 (Spring 2015), 131-51. Republished in Auto/Biography in the Americas: Relational Lives, Routledge, 2016.

“Getting or Losing a Life? Privacy and Online Self-Presentation.” With Sidonie Smith. In Cultures of Privacy, ed. Fitz, Karsten and Bärbel Harju. #19, Publications of the Bavarian American Academy series.  Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2015, 259-71.

“What about False Witnessing? The Limits of Authenticity and Verification.” With Sidonie Smith. Routledge Companion to Human Rights and Literature, ed. Sophia McClennen and Ali Schultheis Moore, 2015, 243-51.

"Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation." With Sidonie Smith. In Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, ed. Julie Rak and Anna Poletti. University of Wisconsin Press, 2013, 70-95. Translated into Portuguese as “Vidas Elétricas: A Escrita da Vida e os Novos Sujeitos das Tecnologias Virtuais.” In Língua e literatura na época da tecnologia, trans. Eliana M. Limongi. Eds. Mota, Mailce Borges; Corseuil, Anelise Reich; Beck, Magali Sperling; Tumolo, Celso Henrique Soufen, eds. Florianópolis, Brazil: Ed UFSC, 2014, 41-64.

“Strategic Autoethnography and American Ethnicity Debates: The Metrics of Authenticity in When I Was Puerto Rican.”  Life Writing, Special Issue on Women’s Life Writing and Diaspora, 10:2 (June 2013), 129-50.

“Witness or False Witness? Metrics of Authenticity, I-Formations, and the Ethic of Verification in Testimony,” with Sidonie Smith. Biography, 35:4 (Fall 2012), 590-626.

Recent Invited Lectures and Workshops

 “Between the Edge and the Abyss: The Serial Performances of Anthony Bourdain,” Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 14, 2018 : https://www.bozar.be/en/activities/148735-the-serial-self-the-influence-of-autobiography-on-contemporary-television-and-internet-series

“What and Where Are the Archives of Those Who Write Themselves?” (written with Sidonie Smith), The Centre for Literary and Intermedial Crossings, Vrije Universitat Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 10, 2018.

“The Archives and Alterlives of Life Writing” (written with Sidonie Smith), Humanities Cluster, Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), Amsterdam, Netherlands, Oct. 2, 2018.

“What and Where Are the Archives of Those Who Write Themselves?” (written with Sidonie Smith), “Beyond Endings: Past Tenses and Future Imaginaries,” Forum for Life Writing Research, Universität Münster, Münster, Germany, Sept. 26, 2018.

“Dementia, Somatic Revenge, and Interrogatory Comics: Miriam Katin’s Letting It Go.” PathoGraphics Workshop on “Dementia, Violence, and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Literature, Film, and Comics,” Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, Sept. 14, 2018.

Workshop on planning a transnational grant for EU funding, Autobiography and Biography Network, University of Amsterdam, Dec. 7, 2017.

W.E.B. De Bois Lecture, “So Auto-Graphic! Scenes of Reading in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Ellen Forney’s Marbles,” with Sidonie Smith. American Studies Department, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, December 5, 2017.

Workshop, with Sidonie Smith, on Life Writing for faculty and graduate students at the Conference on “Convention and Revolution: Life writing by women in the 1800s and 1900s,” organized by the Women’s Archive team, a Division of the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, December 1, 2017.

Keynote lecture with Sidonie Smith, “The Archives of Those Who Write Themselves: What and Where Are the Issues?”, at Conference on “Convention and Revolution” organized by the Women’s Archive team, a Division of the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, November 30, 2017.

Lecture with Sidonie Smith, “The Archives of Those Who Write Themselves: What and Where Are the Issues?”, Gender Studies Department of the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, November 21, 2017.

Workshop with Sidonie Smith, “Life Writing,” for the Network for Biographical Research, University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, Aus., November 16, 2017.

Lecture with Sidonie Smith, “Getting a Digital Life: Self-Presentation Online,” for Doctoral Academy Day 2017 at the University of Graz in Graz, Austria, November 10, 2017.

Colloquium on our essay, “Witness or False Witness?”, with Sidonie Smith, Department of American Studies, University of Graz, November 9, 2017.

Project Narrative Panelist on Camille Dungy’s Guidebook to Relative Strangers (Norton 2017). “Contexts and Conversations,” Ohio State University, Sept.19, 2017.

 “How to Read Autobiographical Narration,” Forum für Literaturwissenschaftliche Japanforschung, Free University, Berlin, Feb. 27, 2016.

“Miriam Katin’s Autographics and Jewish Women’s Life Writing,” Zentrum für Jüdische Studien, Berlin, Feb. 23, 2016.

"Self-Presentation and “Authenticity" in American Life Writing,” Annual Meeting of the Historians in the German Association of American Studies, Tutzing, Germany, Feb. 5, 2016.

“Art Practices, Digital Platforms, Autobiographical Provocations,” with Sidonie Smith. “Ego Media International Network Workshop,” King’s College, London, 14 Sept., 2015.

“Drawn Reading: The Materiality of Literary and Artistic Influence in American Women’s Graphic Memoirs,” with Sidonie Smith. "She Reads to Write Herself,” Paris Ouest FAAAM Colloquium, Sept. 19, 2015.

“Art Practices, Digital Platforms, Autobiographical Provocations,” with Sidonie Smith. “Ego Media International Network Workshop,” King’s College, London, 14 Sept., 2015.

“Getting a Digital Life: Self-Presentation Online,” The Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawaii, Man’oa, Feb. 26, 2015.

“Getting a Digital Life: Autobiography in Online Environments,” University of Leuven, Belgium, Dec. 16, 2014.

Recent Review Essays, Reviews, and Occasional Pieces

Review Essay on Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre? (Leben? oder Theater?) Trans. Leila Vennewitz (1981), including the full “Letter to Amadeus Daberlohn,” trans. Darcy Buerkle and Mary Felstiner (2017). New York and London: Overlook Duckworth, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., 2017, 820 pp., $150.00. Biography, Summer 2019, forthcoming.

“Is Relationality a Genre? Review Essay on Anne Rüggemeier, Die relationale Autobiographie: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie, Poetik und Gattungsgeschichte eines neuen Genres in der englischsprachigen Erzählliteratur [Relational Autobiography: A Contribution to the Theory, Poetics, and Genre History of a New Genre in English-language Narrative Literature].” European Journal of Life Writing, Vol. V, 2016: (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), http://ejlw.eu/article/view/201

Review essay of Hillary L. Chute, Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Harvard University Press, 2016, 359 pp), in Studies in Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Literature, special issue on comics, ed. Frederick Luis Aldama, 42:1, 2017, Article 33. https://doi.org/10.4148/2334-4415.1964

“The 2016 Hogan Prize: Judge’s Review.” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, Winter 2017, 32: 1, 1-4.

“Remembering James Olney.”  Biography, 38.4 (Fall 2015), xv-xviii.

Conference Papers and Panels

International Auto/Biography Association: “Europe: Knowing the Self” session organizer. “New Knowledges, Pedagogical Transits, Autobiographical Comics,” Madrid, June 19-21, 2019.

“Reconstructing the Quest for First Principles as Auto/biographical Conundrum in Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth.” International Auto/Biography Association—Europe, Madrid, June 19-21, 2019.

"Can Autobiographical Discourse Use Simultaneous-Present-Tense Narration? The Stakes of Reading in Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theater?” International Auto/Biography Association--Europe, London, June 6, 2017.

“Graphic Memoirs of Rape in Wartime: Telling New Stories of Surviving Violence,” “Responsibility, Morality, and the Costs of War,” Dept. of Theatre, The Ohio State University, November 14, 2015.

Co-convener with Sidonie Smith: First Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association---Americas Chapter: “Encounters Across the Americas: Archives, Technologies, Methods.”  Humanities Institute, University of Michigan, June 4-7, 2015.

“Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women” symposium and exhibition. Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. Co-organizer with Jared Gardner. Symposium--April 19, 2015.


Life Writing Research Past and Present: Interview with Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson.” Sarah Herbe and Julia Novak. European Journal of Life Writing, VIII, 8–20, 2019. https://ejlw.eu/article/view/35040/33051

"Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson on Life Writing." Journal of Modern Life Writing Studies and the Center for Life Writing, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. Forthcoming, Nov. 2019. 

Editorial and Advisory Boards

2015-- Advisory Board, Palgrave-St. Martin’s book series: Studies in Life Writing

2015-- Editorial Board, Palgrave-St. Martin’s book series” Literary Anthropology

2012--  Advisory Board, Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction (3 vols.), ed. Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2016--.

2005--  Women’s Studies Quarterly, Advisory Board

1998-- A/B: Auto/Biography Studies

Study and Experience Abroad

2019       Residency Award, GEMMA-University of Granada (Carmen de la Victoria), June 7-14, 2019. 

Half-day workshop on “Four decades of women’s autobiographical acts and practices,” presented, with two colleagues, to GEMMA (Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Women’s and Gender Studies program), June 10, 2019.

2017       Residency Award, Arte Studio Ginestrelle, Assisi, Italy, May 17-31, 2017.

Honors and Awards--Individual

2019    Ohio State University Emeritus Academy Grant for Research Travel (Madrid)

2017    Ohio State University Emeritus Academy Grant for Research Travel (London)

Projects Forthcoming or in Progress


"Manthia Diawara’s Strategic Ruminations on Migration and the Conundrums of Cinematic Autoethnography." For Cinergie, Winter 2019. 

“The Stakes of Reading in Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theater?: Autobiographical Discourse and Simultaneous-Present-Tense Narration.” Essay in progress on reception of the Letter following Leben? oder Theater?

With Sidonie Smith:

"The Archival Afterlives of Those Who Write Themselves: What and Where Are They?"  "Afterlives" cluster, ed. Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf. European Journal of Life Writing, V. 9, 2020.

“Affective, Alternative, and Imaginary Archives and Afterlives of the Self in Women’s Life Writing.” In Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Spring 2021.

University Program Evaluation

COBRA Evaluator for Cultural Studies Masters Program, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Dec. 13, 2018.