Professor Nicole Barenbaum served as program chair for the annual meeting of the Society for Personology June 24-26, 2011, on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Society for Personology is a small group of psychologists interested in the psychological study of individual lives. Members' research covers a wide range of interests, including (among others) life stories, autobiographical memories, identity and values, and psychobiography.
This year’s meeting included a paper by Prof. Gary Gregg of Kalamazoo College, Toward a Componential Model of Ideology, on his interviews with college students about their religious, political, and personal beliefs, and three papers on psychobiographical themes:
- One Psyche, One Life, One Writer: My Pathway into Psychobiography, by Prof. Alan Elms (emeritus, University of California, Davis), who has a website devoted in part to his interests in psychobiography and science fiction;
- The "We of Me": Barack Obama’s Search for Identity, a chapter by Prof. Ruthellen Josselson of the Fielding Graduate University from her forthcoming book, Navigating Multiple Identities: Race, Gender, Culture and Roles (edited by R. Josselson and M. Harway; Oxford University Press, 2012); and
- Torment Saint: The Life and Art of Elliott Smith, by Prof. William Todd Schultz of Pacific University, who also has a website devoted to psychobiography with information about his recent books, An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus (Bloomsbury, 2011) and Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers (Oxford University Press, 2011), part of the Oxford Inner Lives series for which Prof. Schultz serves as editor. He published the Handbook of psychobiography in 2005 (Oxford University Press).
Membership in the Society for Personology is by invitation. Papers are circulated to the members a month in advance of the meeting, with a member designated as discussant for each. Unlike many professional meetings, the paper author does not give a formal presentation at the session; instead, the discussant opens with comments on the paper, the author may or may not respond to these comments, with general discussion following.
Dr. Barenbaum was the discussant for Prof. Schultz’s paper on singer and songwriter Elliott Smith (1969-2003), who is the subject of his next book.