Authoring life writing as a technology of the self: A communicological perspective on the concept of voice

Deborah Eicher-Catt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper problematizes a number of theoretical issues surrounding the popular performance of feminist life writing, in particular investigating how it relates to the feminist concept of "voice." To begin, I argue that current theorizing on life writing is too narrowly focused on its linguistic nature. Drawing from the works of Michel Foucault, I develop a more nuanced epistemology of life writing employing a Communicological lens, paying tribute to the insights of Richard L. Lanigan. I argue that such an epistemological stance expands our current understanding of life writing because it allows us to view it as a dialectical practice of discourse thereby fully appreciating it as a communication phenomenon (not merely a linguistic enactment). I describe how life writing is best understood as proceeding from a combinatory discursive logic, one that accentuates it as a semiotic process and phenomenological event, i.e., embodied communicative experience. Doing so begins to expose life writing's inherent dialectical movement in practice between life writing and what I call writing life. I use Foucault's dialectic of the "voiceless name" and the "nameless voice" (and Lanigan's interpretation of Foucault on this phenomenon), to provide a more insightful analysis of the life writing process as an issue of voice. We discover that when viewed as a discursive practice (and not merely a practice of discourse), voice enacts its true authorship. I argue that it is only through this new theoretical lens that we can understand life writing as a powerful technology of the self that feminists claim it to be.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCommunicology for the Human Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationLanigan and the Philosophy of Communication
PublisherPeter Lang AG
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781433143724
ISBN (Print)9781433141157
StatePublished - Feb 12 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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