“This is a Book about Choices”: Gender, Genre and (Auto)Biographical Prison Narratives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Taking a point of departure in theoretical explorations of who is able to speak and be heard in particular generic contexts, this article examines a recent life-writing trend in Sweden: the publication of (auto)biographical narratives of incarceration, in particular written by female inmates. The article investigates the changing production and consumption practices of autobiographical texts. What is the reader assumed to want from these texts? Through a focus on five autobiographies about and sometimes by female convicts, this article investigates which criminal lives reach the publication circuit at the present moment, which life schemas are presented, and what engagement the texts invoke from the reader. Having stood before the law, the autobiographical subject now stands before the reader. The article argues that specifics pertaining to criminal life are downplayed as the event of the crime and the imprisonment are presented as obstacles to be overcome and the narrative becomes a post-imprisonment one that predominantly deals with strategies of coping. These life narratives are part of a larger neoliberal life-writing trend, offering readers ways of working on the self.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Gender Studies


  • autobiography, genre, gender, self-help discourse, imprisonment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-200
JournalNora: nordic journal of feminist and gender research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch