The Lives of Houses

Saturday, 27 May 2017, 9:30am-5.30pm
Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD

A one-day colloquium convened by Oliver Cox & Sandra Mayer, and hosted by OCLW in collaboration with TORCH, will bring together academics, biographers and curators to explore the ways in which the life stories of well-known individuals are preserved and presented through the architecture and material culture of their homes. Talks on musicians’, architects’ and writers’ houses will focus on the intersections of life-writing and notions of fame and celebrity through physical spaces and objects. A plenary lecture by Daisy Hay on “Writing Space in Mr and Mrs Disraeli and Dinner with Joseph Johnson” and papers by:

  • Gillian Darley (Sir John Soane)
  • Lucy Walker (Benjamin Britten’s The Red House)
  • James Grasby (Edward Elgar Birthplace)
  • Alexandra Harris (William Cowper, John Clare and Virginia Woolf)
  • Frankie Kubicki (Charles Dickens Museum)
  • Nicola Watson (Shakespeare’s New Place)

Finally, a round table featuring Head of Specialist Advice for the National Trust, Nino Strachey, biographer and broadcaster Alexandra Harris, and art historian and curator Serena Dyer, the expert panel will cast a spotlight on the strategies available to those who open and present these houses to the public today.

Booking essential! Click here to reserve your place.

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Photo by Annie Spratt (CC0 1.0)

Dirty Little Secrets Of The Caspian

A streak of black for depression, blue for nostalgic memories of home, red for love, I put above all else, yellow for the hatred of injustice, green for the life I chose to not end, white for the peace I desperately seek. Here is a portrait painted with words.

It was time. After much encouragement and practice with my beloved husband Payam, I finally picked up the phone. I drew a deep breath to steady myself and dialed the number to my girlhood best friend in Iran.

One beep, two beeps, three beeps, four beeps…

“Why is she not answering?!”

Both relieved and annoyed, I knew that calling anywhere in the Middle East usually took a few attempts before one finally got through.

I tried again.

After two beeps, she picked up. “Hello.”

I was speechless.

“Hello? Hello?” My friend Delara’s familiar cracked voice came from my iPhone speaker.

I sat on the cold floor of our studio flat in London, gazing out through the window onto the wooden fence.

Frozen, heart racing, unable to speak.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

“Yes… Hi… It’s me… Raha.”

After twenty-three years, I was finally speaking to my childhood best friend, whom I had tried so hard to wipe from my memory.

After the initial shock and an avalanche of emotions, we were able to catch up.

She asked me how things were, and I told her that I was going to therapy, but I didn’t say what for. I told her that I was also taking a short biography writing course.

Payam helped me with the translation a few times; my Farsi had grown rusty without use. When I told her the name of the course in Farsi, she couldn’t believe it.

“Do you remember trying to convince me to write our life stories just before you left Iran? You even started yours in a notebook. I still have it.”

“What notebook?”

“The wounded birds…don’t you remember?”

I had no idea what she was referring to.

She continued, “You had written poems in the beginning of the notebook. ‘If you listen closely, you can hear the shrieks in the silence of the mountains’… Remember now?”

As soon as she said that, I remembered the notebook and the poems… and the consuming pain I was trying to exorcise out by writing.

“I don’t know why I haven’t called for twenty-three years.”

It was a lie. I knew exactly why I had not called her; I just couldn’t tell her the truth because I was afraid of the impact it would have on her.

After what felt like a long pause, she said, “I feel the same way. I think I just wanted to hold on to the good memories. For some reason that I haven’t worked out yet, I think I was afraid of what would happen if we spoke. It was just too difficult. Maybe, because when you left for Pakistan everything happened so quickly and we didn’t even say goodbye properly. I heard through the grapevine that after Pakistan you were in Australia, and now married that famous guy everyone is obsessed with and moved to London. Is that true? How did you even meet him?”

“Oh, it’s a long story.” I said.

“You know, I left our tiny old town too, left university, got married, had a baby and moved to North of Iran, near the Caspian Sea.” she said.

Every time I think about ‘The Caspian Sea,’ a breaking wave of anxiety sweeps me off my feet into panic. But this time, I gasped for air in an attempt to keep my anxiety in check.

I asked if she had moved north into her grandparents’ house, which also happened to be one of my father’s hideouts from the authorities, and where our families had spent one summer together just before I was smuggled out of Iran into Pakistan.

“Yes, for a while, but recently we moved a few houses down the road from them, not long after this beautiful boy was born,” she said in a peaceful voice, “I’m actually looking out onto our garden as I am speaking to you.”

“Wait… so does that mean you still see your grandparents and… umm… and your uncle?” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say his name.

“Yes, they are all here – at my grandparents’ same old house.” she said.

My heart stopped. That house was where her uncle sexually abused us both, when we were nine—twenty-three years ago.

“Can you tell from my voice that I am freezing here in London?” I asked, quickly changing the subject. I just couldn’t bring it up.

I promised to call her again. It has been one year, one month and a few days since that day.

To be continued…

By Tellurian Writes

www.tellurianwrites.com
@tellurianwrites

Photo by Rui Barros (CC0 1.0)

Maps without borders: Stories of civic science in action

This storytelling exhibition at University College London showcases powerful aerial maps created by citizens using kites, balloons, and point-and-shoot cameras. They explore how people around the world are harnessing the power of Do-It-Yourself techniques to address local environmental, social and political matters.

Sitting around a proverbial campfire, they will tell four stories of unsung heroes in the U.S. and the Middle East, who have crafted tools and gathered evidence that has reconfigured the perception of space, place, and issues that shape their lives.

For more information…

The Celebrity Interview: History, Aesthetics, Method

Writing in a late 1870s ‘confession album’, a young Oscar Wilde answered the question ‘What is your aim in life?’ with a characteristically cocky ‘Success, fame or even notoriety’. Intriguingly, the term ‘confession album’ points towards the darker, more menacing undercurrents of a format often dismissed as idle celebrity gossip, and there is a ring of eerie foresight in Wilde’s youthful bragging. Almost twenty years later, Wilde was tried for ‘gross indecency’ and found himself subjected to gruelling cross-examination, during which he gave a brilliant performance of rhetorical bravado, but during which he also passed, as he observed in De Profundis, ‘from a sort of eternity of fame to a sort of eternity of infamy’.

The most recent event in OCLW’s ‘Life-Writing and Celebrity’ series cast a spotlight on the history, aesthetics, ethics and methodology of the celebrity interview as a form uneasily positioned between the public and the private, art and commerce, individual agency and appropriation. Its complexity is rooted in its paradoxical double nature: promising intimacy, privacy and access, it is yet firmly embedded within the public sphere; successfully creating an illusion of authenticity, it is yet blatantly staged and orchestrated, a key site for self-fashioning and performance, subject to editorial conventions and the constraints of the medium – print, television, radio; live or recorded. As a metaphorical dialogue between revelation and concealment, the interview format therefore lends itself to a fruitful interrogation of the forces at play in the production and consumption of celebrity.

Drawing on her foundational research on the genre of the literary interview, Becky Roach (King’s College London) in her talk outlined some of the basic premises underlying a ‘theory of the interview’. The interview is fundamentally concerned with the transfer of specialised knowledge, but, at the same time, points towards the insufficiencies and pitfalls of mediation. Catering to our desire for imminence in an age of mass communication, it offers a platform for deception, ghosting, false portraits and variably serves as a vehicle of rambling chatter and communicative clarity. Moreover, the audience was reminded that the interview promotes two versions of subjectivity: the highly constructed personal identity of the interviewee, promising an accurate portrait of psychological depth and interiority, and the frequently de-emphasised personhood of the interviewer. Even though the interview is generally considered an autobiographical life-writing genre, its authorship is shared, raising questions of attribution and ownership. The role of the interviewer often uncomfortably hovers between self-effacing listener and highly visible co-protagonist on a spectrum that ranges from observation to dialogic participation and and can even take on the form of coercing the narrative of the interviewee.

Providing intriguing insights into the form of the ‘staged last interview’ by renowned public intellectuals and writers, Anneleen Masschelein (University of Leuven) highlighted the ethical dimensions of the celebrity interview. She began by outlining the historical and socio-cultural contexts of what German art historian Peter Geimer calls the ‘Dramaturgy of the Last’: the memorial function of the death-bed conversation and the ars moriendi tradition. Masschelein’s case study focused on the legendary last interview given by dramatist and screenwriter Dennis Potter, broadcast by Channel 4 in 1994. Seemingly unedited and unmediated, it features a chain-smoking and champagne-drinking Potter, who frequently interrupts the interview to take a sip from his flask containing liquid morphine. What uncomfortably strikes the viewer as turning death into a spectacle feeding audience voyeurism is in fact a minutely choreographed performance that serves a concrete agenda – in Potter’s case, to self-reflexively engage with his authorship status, secure his legacy and ‘go out with a fitting memorial’. The staged last interview, Masschelein suggested, is symptomatic of a new ‘death style’ that emerges in the late 20th century as a response to the biopolitics of life-style and the possibilities of staging and performing our deaths just like our lives.

The two talks on the history, aesthetics and ethics of interviewing were meant to be followed by a practical demonstration of the art and method of interviewing by Hermione Lee and Mark Lawson, two ‘celebrity interviewers’ par excellence. With train security alerts and unreliable Skype connections preventing both Mark Lawson’s physical and virtual appearances, the planned meta-interview turned into a master-class of how to deal with the unpredictability of interview situations with professionalism and aplomb. Hermione Lee thus shared with the audience her rich experience as seasoned interviewer and interviewee in her multiple roles as academic, biographer and broadcaster. She emphasised the interviewer’s need to remain flexible and readiness to abandon their tactics and agenda in order to respond to the interviewee’s moves and potential refusal to play along: “Sometimes you need to throw away your notes, you need to go with the flow.” She impressively drew attention to the power games between the interviewer and the interviewee that can make the interview situation go off kilter and the importance of silences, encouraging interviewers to resist the temptation to fill in those pauses, excruciating as they may be.

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The evening was an apt reminder of the need to pay more critical and scholarly attention to a format that can hardly be dismissed as a mere self-marketing tool or vehicle for spreading trivial celebrity gossip. Participating in different types of discourse and serving a whole range of different purposes, from market research to psychotherapy, it is impossible to ignore its ubiquity in contemporary society and its importance as a platform for articulating public and private identities.

On 6 June there will be a second chance to experience Mark Lawson, one of Britain’s leading arts journalists and broadcasters, in conversation with Hermione Lee about the pitfalls and opportunities of the celebrity interview.

Sandra Mayer is a Lecturer in English Literature and Culture at the University of Vienna and an OCLW Visiting Scholar. She is currently working on a project that explores the intersections of literary celebrity and politics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain.

Photo by Samuel Zeller (CC0 1.0)

The Weinrebe Lecture series 2017: Writing World Lives

The annual Weinrebe Lectures in Life-Writing will take place over four weeks in the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium at Wolfson College beginning on Tuesday, 24 January 2017.

The lectures are open to all, free of charge, with no reservation required. You can listen to podcasts of previous years’ Weinrebe lectures here.

Tuesday 24 January, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Patrick French: ‘How to Write a World Life’

Patrick French is a British writer and historian, based in London and Delhi. He is the author of several books including: Younghusband: the Last Great Imperial Adventurer, about Francis Younghusband; The World Is What It Is, the authorised biography of Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; and India: a Portrait, a biography of 1.2 billion people.

Tuesday 31 January, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Elleke Boehmer: ‘Nelson Mandela: A World Life’

Elleke Boehmer is Professor of World Literature in English in the English Faculty, University of Oxford, and currently Director of the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). She is a founding figure in the field of colonial and postcolonial studies, and internationally known for her research in anglophone literatures of empire and anti-empire. She is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer, most recently of The Shouting in the Dark. She is the author of the cultural history, Nelson Mandela: A Very Short IntroductionColonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors, and Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920 (all published by Oxford University Press).

Tuesday 7 February, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Roy Foster: ‘‘Doors into the Dark’: Seamus Heaney and his Worlds’

Roy Foster is the Carroll Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, Oxford. Professor Foster’s many books include biographies of politicians such as Charles Stewart Parnell and Lord Randolph Churchill, a large-scale history of Ireland from the 17th century, the two-volume biography of Yeats, and many essays on Irish culture and politics, including a book on the ‘Celtic Tiger’ phenomenon of the 1990s. A recent book, Words Alone: Yeats and his inheritances, presents a re-reading of Irish literary history throughout the nineteenth century. He is currently working on a history of Irish literature.

Tuesday 21 February, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Lyndal Roper: ‘Martin Luther, Difficult Hero’

Lyndal Roper is a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and the first woman to hold the Regius Chair in History. Her first book, The Holy Household. Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg argued that the Reformation developed a theology of gender. Its attraction lay in its offer of the vision of a ‘holy household’ where the roles of men and women were clearly distinct. Oedipus and the Devil ranges through the literary culture of the sixteenth century to the use of psychoanalysis in studying witchcraft. Witch Craze argues that what powered the witch craze was a set of fears about fertility in the human and the natural world, and The Witch in the Western Imagination explores images of witches and witchcraft in art and literature. She is currently writing a biography of Martin Luther.

Photo by Lena Bell (CC0 1.0)

The Celebrity Interview: History, Aesthetics, Method

Please join us on Tuesday 17th January at 5:30pm, at the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College.

The second in a new series of OCLW events focusing on the intersections of life-writing and celebrity, this discussion panel is dedicated to the genre of the celebrity interview. Scholars and practitioners will cast a spotlight on one of the dominant forms in contemporary media and celebrity culture, exploring its history, aesthetics, and methodology.

In her talk on “Interviews and the Work of Celebrity”, Rebecca Roach (King’s College London) will consider the labour involved in a format often derided as being little else but celebrity gossip, even though it has become the predominant mode of (self)promotion for authors and other public figures.

Anneleen Masschelein (University of Leuven, Belgium) examines the practice of the recorded last interview by eminent intellectuals, such as Dennis Potter, Edward Said, and Stuart Hall. Her contribution looks at this media phenomenon in the light of the ‘famous last words’ tradition and against the background of a shift in practices of dying in contemporary Western culture.

The panel will be rounded off by a ‘meta interview’: a conversation between critic and biographer Hermione Lee and arts journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson about the art and method of the celebrity interview.

The event is free and open to all.

For more information, please contact Kate Kennedy 

Photo by Oscar Keys (CC0 1.0)

 

War Time: International Society for First World War Studies conference

 

The 9th conference of the International Society of First World War Studies took place at the University of Oxford between 9th-11th November. The conference welcomed more than 80 academics from 11 different countries, who met at the Maison Française d’Oxford. Held at the midpoint of the First World War formal centenary period, this year’s ‘War Time’ conference theme aimed to encourage scholars to re-consider and reflect upon the way time has impacted and shaped conflict itself and subsequent scholarship.

ISFWWS conferences are based on an unusual yet very productive format, which aims to inspire wide-ranging academic discussion and provide junior researchers with an opportunity to present their work in an encouraging and stimulating environment. All 18 conference papers, which had been authored by PhD students and early-career researchers, were circulated amongst the participants in advance of the event. A senior academic in the field was invited to provide a commentary for each individual paper. The papers, which covered a variety of topics, were then paired up to create the following nine panels:

  • Aerial Time
  • Endgame
  • Medical Time
  • Soundscapes of Time
  • Ideological Timelines
  • Personal Memories and Experiences
  • Materiality on the Home Front
  • Discursive Time
  • Anticipation

Following a commentary, the author of the paper had an opportunity to respond. Afterwards, the floor was opened to discussion.

The conference was framed by keynote lectures from prominent historians Professor Sir Hew Strachan (University of St Andrews), Professor John Horne (Trinity College Dublin / University of Oxford), and Professor Margaret MacMillan (University of Oxford), in which they discussed the topics of time and strategic planning, time-frames, and moving from war to peace respectively. The keynotes, which were recorded by the University of Oxford’s recording team, will be available online shortly.

The conference organisers had the privilege of welcoming a number of distinguished scholars. OCLW’s Weinrebe Research Fellow in Life-writing,  Dr. Kate Kennedy, was asked to serve as commentator for Ellen Davies’s paper, entitled “‘Mechanical Rhythms’: Music & Temporal Multiplicities in Pre-War Paris’”, on the Soundscapes of Time panel.

Furthermore, during the conference two separate prizes were announced and awarded. At the end of the first day the ‘WWI Research Competition’, open to all students and staff members of the University of Oxford who had original ideas for engaging and accessible research projects relating to the war, was awarded to Dr. Alice Kelly (Harmsworth Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute) for her podcast by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH). The runner-up was JC Niala, an MSt Creative Writing student from Kellogg College for her podcast ‘African Soldiers in WWI: Forgotten in a global war’.

The Gail Braybon Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper, which the conference committee- with input from an ISFWWS representative- selected from amongst those conference papers whose authors do not already hold a doctorate, was announced during the concluding remarks. The winner was Assaf Mond of Tel Aviv University with his paper ‘‘‘It is at night-time that we notice most of the changes in our life caused by the war’: Zeppelins, Time and Space in Great War London”.

The conference proceedings were followed on 12th November by a public engagement day organised by Oxford’s Academic IT department, during which twenty conference delegates and organisers worked as part of the volunteer team helping to run a ‘Community Collection Day’ as part of the Europeana14-18 project.

Adam Luptak, Hanna Smyth, and Louis Halewood, War Time co-organisers, Globalising and Localising the Great War, University of Oxford.

Global Lives and Local Perspectives: New Approaches to Tibetan Life Writing. Call for Papers

We invite papers that explore new approaches to the various forms of Tibetan life writing for a two-day workshop to be held at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, on May 12-13, 2017.

The aim of this workshop is to examine Tibet’s rich tradition of biographical writing as documented in Tibetan narrative, poetic, legal and religious literature. Particular attention will be devoted to journals, memoirs, letters, oral testimonies, personal accounts, and ritual inscriptions as expressions of the relationship between the individual and the society, the local and the global, the past and the present, the public and the private.

How and in which ways does life writing shape the public and private identity of the protagonists? What do personal narratives say about the way Tibetans perceived and made sense of the outside world? What role, if any, does life writing play in historical revisionism? Why does Tibet have such an unusually rich tradition of biographical writing and how much creativity was allowed by literary and cultural conservativism? What does material culture say about the life of artists, patrons, and spiritual masters? In addressing these and other questions pertaining to Tibetan life writing, contributors are invited to broach topics including, but not limited to:

  • Issues of Identity Construction, Power Relationships, and History-making Processes in Biographical Writing
  • Factual and Fictional Aspects of Tibetan Life Writing
  • Personal Narratives and Historical Revisionism
  • Perception of the Self and the Other in Biographical Writing
  • Literary Conservatism as a Creative Act
  • Gender Issues
  • Questions of Literary Theory
  • Oral Narratives

Submission

Postgraduates and scholars are encouraged to submit an abstract of up to 500 words (for a 30-minute presentation) together with a short academic CV at lifewriting.wolfson@gmail.com by February 1, 2017.

 

Life-writing and philosophy: call for papers

Life Writing is calling for submissions to a special themed edition on Philosophy and Life Writing, to be guest edited by Christopher Cowley and D. L. Mahieu.

Philosophers have long been interested in the nature of the self and in the meaning and narrative structure of human lives. Many philosophers have themselves written autobiographies. Descartes’s Meditations, Augustine’s Confessions and Rousseau’s Confessions are all frequently cited as early influences on the writing of autobiography. Yet there has been very little direct, theoretical and systematic interest from philosophers in the modern boom in autobiographical writing.

Christopher Cowley recently addressed this gap in his book The Philosophy of Autobiography (University of Chicago Press, 2015). In this special themed edition of Life Writing, he plans to open up further discussion, together with his co-editor, D. L. LeMahieu, an intellectual historian and the author of two books and many articles on British cultural history.

  • Classic philosophic life writing (Augustine, Rousseau, Mill, Sartre etc).
  • How philosophers fashion their life narratives compared to other disciplines.
  • The relationship between subjectivities, truth [?] and philosophic abstractions.
  • The influences of class, gender, race and nation; and the intersections of temporality and life narrative.
  • The role of faith in one’s self-understanding (perhaps with a reference to Kierkegaard).
  • The limits of narrative in the auto/biographical genre (perhaps with reference to Ricoeur).
  • The problem of understanding people in different times and places: historical biographies.
  • Can there be a complete secular biography of a devout religious believer?
  • To what degree should the biographer judge the subject?
  • The balance between luck and self-determination in the biography.
  • How the meaning of a person’s life changes over time: different biographies of the same person.
  • The relative advantages of writing a biography about a living person and a dead person.
  • The place of vanity and humility in autobiography.
  • Internalised oppressive self-conceptions and autobiography.
  • The right of response from those written about in others’ memoirs/autobiographies.
  • Do dying autobiographers have nothing to lose, and therefore are most authentic?
  • Autobiography as revenge and punishment.

Full details on the journal website.

Celebrity and Life-Writing in Dialogue

Abounding with buzzwords such as ‘myth’, ‘image’, ‘authenticity’, ‘public and private persona’, ‘iconicity’ and ‘cultural memory’, the links between celebrity and life-writing seem self-evident. There are, for one, the ambivalent motives underlying our fascination with both biography and celebrity, ranging from a desire for emulation and hero-worship to a hunger for gossip, revelation and social levelling through a vengeful ‘dethroning’ of celebrities. We are drawn towards the extraordinariness of exemplary lives and tempted into semi-religious veneration of their ‘relics’, while, at the same time, the appeal of individual life narratives is rooted in their ‘ordinariness’. Their promise is the democratic attainability of fame: that, with a bit of luck and a good marketing strategy, we can all become at least ‘micro celebrities’ as the stars of our own YouTube channel.

Both life-writing and celebrity – as practices, phenomena and fields of research – are concerned with the notions of authenticity and intimacy, public and private, accessibility and aloofness, myth-making and revelation. Both explore the tension between individual agency and the shaping and appropriation of public images by cultural and socio-political frameworks, media industries, ideologies and a whole network of agents. Life-writing is a multi-media genre, and it is one that both creates, and is fuelled by, celebrity, which emerges from the visibility and circulation of public images through a broad variety of media, from portraits to biopics and social media. A biographical subject’s celebrity status often determines whether their lives get written or not; it often obscures and obstructs our vision, necessitating a critical look at the workings of the ‘celebrity apparatus’ itself.

In spite of their many shared concerns, the close interconnections of life-writing and celebrity have only recently begun to be specifically addressed. The one-day colloquium Celebiography: Celebrity and Life-Writing in Dialogue at The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing on 19 November takes up a conversation begun last year at the TORCH/OCLW co-funded conference After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity, organised by Nanette O’Brien and Oline Eaton. It aims to contribute towards a more sustained dialogue between these two closely interwoven fields and to trigger a conversation about what we as scholars and ‘practitioners’ may gain from combining their theories and methodologies. How can we benefit from integrating a life-writing perspective into our work on celebrity, and how does thinking about the nature of celebrity, the conditions of producing and consuming celebrity, change the way in which we write, read and study life narratives?

The mix of formats though which this conversation unfolds – research papers, a roundtable discussion, a ‘performance’ and Q&A – reflects the diversity of thematic and disciplinary approaches to celebrity and life-writing in dialogue. Research papers by Emma Smith, Tobias Heinrich, Julia Lajta-Novak, and Ginette Vincendeau offer specific case studies of the intersections of life-writing and celebrity in different cultural and historical contexts. They focus on biographical subjects as diverse as celebrity actresses and celebrity books and cover a broad spectrum of themes, including the (after)lives of iconic objects and the ways in which they inform discourses of cultural memory and value; or the relationship between life-writing, celebrity, and concepts of gender, class, and genre.

A round table discussion featuring biographers and scholars Hermione Lee, Philip Bullock, and Ruth Scobie, and screenwriter Lindsay Shapero will address the challenges and opportunities of representing lives of different types and degrees of celebrity and fame (e.g. musicians, writers, politicians, explorers) through different media. Another aspect that links life-writing and Celebrity Studies is that the work undertaken in their respective disciplinary frameworks is often intensely personal, and scholars have not shied away from drawing on their own experience as fans. In a Q&A with author, academic and filmmaker Will Brooker, whose documentary Being Bowie captures the immersive research process behind his forthcoming book on David Bowie, we will have a chance to dwell on the question how this personal level of affective involvement can be turned into a form of auto/biographical experimentation.

The first in a new series of OCLW events dedicated to exploring the intersections of life-writing and celebrity, the colloquium will spark debates on how different degrees of fame, celebrity, and public (non-)visibility affect the representation of lives; on the challenges and the ethical questions that arise in the context of working on famous lives; and on the relationship between life-writing, celebrity and questions of selfhood and identity.

Sandra Mayer is a Lecturer in English Literature and Culture at the University of Vienna and an OCLW Visiting Scholar. She is currently working on a project that explores the intersections of literary celebrity and politics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain.

Photo by Anthony Delanoix (CC0 1.0)

This event is open to all, to register click here.