A forum for the discussion of biography in the 21st century.

Author Archives: AHRC Biography Network

Celebrity Couple Conference

October 4th, 2012 | Posted by AHRC Biography Network in Discussion - (0 Comments)


The conference on celebrity couples taking place at the University of Southampton’s Avenue Campus [‘home’ of this website] on Saturday, 24 November, boasts an impressive line up of speakers and has an obvious attraction for all interested in biography. Further details of the conference can be secured from Dr Shelley Cobb, Lecturer in English in the Faculty of Humanities, and whose email address is: S.Cobb@soton.ac.uk.

Conference Podcasts

August 9th, 2012 | Posted by AHRC Biography Network in Discussion | Podcast - (0 Comments)

As promised, highlights of the conference are now available here on the website. Regrettably, for technical and other reasons not all talks are available (e.g. Frederic Raphael’s trenchant conference launch), but the podcasts confirm the quality of presentation and debate, as highlighted by Ray Monk’s post-conference blog (see below)

To download the mp3, hit play, then right click>save as on the download button.

3 July 2012

Stuart Profitt – A Publisher’s Point of View Download accompanying transcript

Robert Fraser – Biography, Satire, and Remembrance

June Parvis – Writing a biography of First Wave feminist Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette leader in Edwardian Britain. What differing stories do biographers tell?

Becky Conekin – Model Lives: The Challenge of Writing the History of Professional Fashion Modelling in London c. 1947 to 1967

Tim Waterstone – Whither the book?

Panel Discussion

4 July 2012:

Andrew Hadfield – Edward Spencer and the Reconstruction of Early Modern Lives

Paal Antonsen – Fictional Biographical Characters

Alex Danchev – Whither the Lives of the Artists?

Jeremy Treglown – The Death of the Life: Reports Exaggerated?

Silke Roth – “It’s a small world” – Presenting Research on International Aid Workers

Helen Rappaport – The Search for a Subject: Finding New Ways of Looking at Old Stories

Liz Baigent – The Geography of Biography: The Various Lives of Kate Marsden, Traveller to Siberia in the 1890s

Jack Corbett – In Defence of Empathy: Leadership Narratives and the Methodological Practice of Collective Biography

Richard Holmes – Biography and Science

Turning Points in Biography: the collective, the event and the return of the life in parts
9-10 February 2013
University of East Anglia
Organised under the auspices of the University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing’s Biography and Creative Non-Fiction Programme

Keynote speakers TBA


They say the devil’s in the details. So what kind of life do we get when depth overshadows breadth? In serious biography, more and more, it means a partial life: a focus on what is called the ‘collective’ or group, and (in what is swiftly becoming the new trend) on a pivotal event or age. The conventional biographer must wonder: how do these shorter, closer cuts stand up to definitive, cradle-to-grave lives? What new challenges do they present, and what old ones do they overcome? Are certain subjects better served by it? How is the structure already evolving?

Biographers such as Richard Holmes, Charles Nicholl, Helen Rappaport and Frances Wilson have chosen a pivotal event, a series of events, or the relationships within a group to create closer and perhaps even truer portraits of their subjects than ever before. This two-day international and interdisciplinary conference invites papers from postgraduates, academics and practicing biographers that explore this recent innovation in life writing by addressing such questions as:

  • Is there still a place for the definitive life?
  • What new obstacles does the event-based narrative put before us?
  • Is it necessarily problematic that this approach distorts the life?
  • How do we find a sense of wholeness in parts?
  • How do we assess rigor of scholarship in this context?
  • How does an event-driven narrative answer the weaknesses in the conventional cradle-to-grave structure?
  • What subjects are most suited to this structure?

Topics may include but are not confined to papers on biographical works in progress, critical readings or theoretical approaches.

Please send abstracts of 250 words for 20 minute papers with your name, email address and university affiliation to Kathryn Holeywell and Blake Darlin at UEABiographyConference@gmail.com
Deadline: 1 November 2012

Podcasts of Nottingham Symposium

January 23rd, 2012 | Posted by AHRC Biography Network in Discussion - (0 Comments)

Following on from Adrian’s report of the Nottingham Symposium, here are streamable and downloadable podcasts from the day. Ideally, these will provoke further discussion here on the site – feel free to add your comments!

Andrew Lycett – The Business of Biography

Miranda Seymour: Reflections of a Freelance Biographer

Prof. John Charmley: “You’ll never get a Chair if you continue to write
biographies.” The challenges of biography for an academic

Dr Lawrence Goldman (Oxford): Biography in the digital era

Prof. Ray Monk: Is there still a place for biography within the academy?

The symposium speakers: panel discussion