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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Life Writing

For a Special Issue on
Meritocracy and Life Writing

Abstract deadline
01 July 2021

Manuscript deadline
31 October 2021

Cover image - Life Writing

Special Issue Editor(s)

D. L. LeMahieu, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois, 60045 USA
[email protected]

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Meritocracy and Life Writing

Michael Young’s satire The Rise of the Meritocracy (1957) popularized a new term that gained wide currency in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.  Both the social democratic Left and the neo-liberal Right endorsed the notion that intelligence plus effort equaled merit.  Intended to displace an elitism based on birth or social privilege, meritocracy promised upward mobility to those with the talent and work ethic to earn success.  Yet, as meritocracy congealed into a self-sustaining elitism, the concept attracted intense criticism from meritocrats themselves as well as nativists and populists excluded from positions of power.  The life writing of meritocrats discloses the complex subjectivities of upward mobility during a period of accelerating social change.


  • Meritocratic life writing before the term was coined (Roman “new men”; elites of the Chinese examination system; Victorian self-help discourse)
  • Education, scholarships, and social class in meritocratic narratives
  • Gender and meritocracy
  • Race and meritocratic life writing
  • Structure and personal agency in meritocratic life writing
  • Meritocratic virtue: the personal qualities required to succeed
  • Marxism and meritocratic life writing
  • Meritocratic medical doctors, lawyers and jurists
  • Politicians and their advisors
  • Business women and business men
  • Childhood and the origins of personal ambition
  • Meritocrats and personal trauma, including terminal illness narratives
  • Typologies of meritocratic life writing
  • Meritocratic academics and the transformation of higher education
  • Meritocratic life writing and identity politics
  • How meritocrats process, critique, or ignore their own privileges
  • Meritocratic dissenters, including populists and nativists
  • Meritocratic theologians and the challenges of secularism
  • Ghost writing the lives of famous meritocrats including entertainers
  • Neoliberal life writing
  • Mentors in meritocratic life writing

Submission Instructions

Abstracts are invited addressing any of the topics above.

Abstracts should be between 300 and 500 words and include the author’s institutional affiliation if any. Include 5 or 6 keywords for your approach to the topic.

Due date for abstracts: Thursday 1st July, 2021.

Abstracts should be emailed to the journal’s guest editor at [email protected]

Authors will be notified as to whether the complete paper would be welcome for submission by 16th August, 2021.

Final due date for completed papers if abstract is accepted: 1st December 2021.

Please follow the Guidelines for Authors on the journal's website for referencing etc.

Papers will be submitted for blind peer review and final online publication during 2022, with print publication to follow.

Instructions for Authors