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

CFP : Turning Points in Biography : the collective, the event and the return of the life in parts

August 2nd, 2012 | Posted by AHRC Biography Network in Discussion

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

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