Past Events

Here you can access details of events that have already taken place at OCLW. We have uploaded podcasts, photographs and reports for some events. You can also access a list of our podcasts here.

Academic Year 2017-2018

Trinity Term 2018 at Wolfson College

Life-Writing Lunch

Tuesday 24 April 2018, 1-2pm Haldane Room
Elizabeth Wilson, ‘A Glimpse of other worlds: the questing spirit of Maria Yudina (1899-1970)’

Maria Yudina was one of the most remarkable pianists of her time. She associated with Igor Stravinsky and Boris Pasternak, and was a founding member of Mikhail Bakhtin’s philosophical circle.  Increasingly marginalised because of her Orthodox faith, Yudina never compromised her views, even during the worst years of Stalinist repression. Never allowed to travel to the West, by the end of her life Yudina was also denied the possibility of performing in public, since during her concerts she could not refrain herself from speaking or reciting unpublished poetry by her great Russian contemporaries.

The event is free but booking is essential:

Life-Writing Lunch

Tuesday 1 May 2018, 1-2pm Haldane Room
Carmen Bugan, ‘Artistic Distance and the Language of Oppression’

Writing is an emotional process and it works when it makes us feel, both as writers and readers. Yet a certain emotional distance is necessary when one writes poetry with the language of oppression, especially when one has been the victim, and offers a historical testimony. What kind of liberties can one take with the material? What constitutes appropriate artistic language when one navigate the territories of poetry about the hard truths? Rescuing language from screams of pain and anger into poetic language, which shows the effect of oppression on the inner landscape of feeling, is what poetry offers as an art.

The event is free but booking is essential:

Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 May 2018
Everyday Matters: Writing Obscure Lives

This 2-day colloquium, convened by Dr Katherine Collins and Dr Kate Kennedy, will bring together writers and scholars from across the humanities and the social sciences. With keynotes from Alison Light and Alexander Masters; Panels on representing marginalised lives and children’s lives, everyday aesthetics and creative representations, diaries, newspapers and autograph books, and lives of crime. Workshops on autobiographical comic-making with graphic artist Una and duoethnographic writing-as-activism. Screening and discussion of Village Tales, Sue Sudbury’s award-winning participatory film about child marriage in India.

Booking is essential:

Monday 14 May 5:30 – 7pm
Literary Celebrity and Political Persona

Writers and writers’ organisations have persistently used their public standing and ‘cultural capital’ to promote causes that transcend the literary sphere, from gender equality to free expression, anti-war agitation, and environmental issues. This panel explores the political impact of authorship in an age of celebrity advocacy and how academic institutions, prize-giving bodies, publishing industries, and digital media shape this impact.

With David Marshall, Professor of New Media and Cultural Studies at Deakin University; Rachel Potter, Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of East Anglia; and Kirsty Gunn, acclaimed novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.

No need to book, just come to the LWA.

Tuesday 15 May, 5:30 – 7pm, LWA
The Art of the Obituary

A panel discussion with Matthew Bannister, host of Radio 4’s Last Word; Claire Armitstead, Associate Editor of The Guardian; and Avril Maddrell, Cultural Geographer at the University of Reading.

Saturday 2 June, 7:30pm The Sheldonian Theatre

Even in the darkest times, music can help us remember, restore and reconcile. In the decade in which Europe was ravaged by the Great War, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Maurice Ravel drew on earlier musical memories to create masterworks that would themselves become memorials. The Lark Ascendingand Le Tombeau de Couperin (Couperin’s Tomb)are complemented by an exquisite interlude by the Irish-French composer Augusta Holmès. La Nuit et l’Amour (Night and Love)forms part of Holmès’ symphonic ode Ludus Pro Patria (Patriotic Games), an evocation of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’ great painting of Picardy youths in battle training. A hundred years after the First World War, New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie echoes the evergreen sounds of Vaughan Williams in a powerful oratorio commemorating the everyday people who strove to retain hope and dignity as the years of carnage shattered their humanity.

Music’s capacity to find connections across cultural and political divides is celebrated in the Parliament Choir, comprising members of both Houses of Parliament and staff of all parties. The Lords, MPs and their staff are joined by guest singers from New Zealand’s City Choir Dunedin, and the acclaimed Southbank Sinfonia which unites outstanding graduate musicians from all over the world, conducted by Simon Over.

AUGUSTA HOLMÈS La nuit et l’amour
RAVEL Le Tombeau de Couperin
ANTHONY RITCHIE Gallipoli to the Somme (European premiere)

Anna Leese soprano
Jon Stainsby baritone
City Choir Dunedin
The Parliament Choir
Annabel Drummond Violin
Southbank Sinfonia
Simon Over Conductor

The concert is free but booking is essential:

Thursday 7 June, 5:30 – 7pm, LWA
Robert Crawford, ‘Biography and Eliot’

Robert Crawford is a poet, biographer, critic and literary historian. He has published seven collections of poetry in English, the most recent of which is Testament (Cape, 2014). With Simon Armitage he edited The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945, and with Mick Imlah he edited The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse. He is Professor of Modern Scottish Literature and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy.

Friday 8 June, 4:30-6pm Haldane Room
The Fateful Voyage

The Fateful Voyage (telling the story of Rupert Brooke and composers Denis Browne and FS Kelly’s journey to Gallipoli during the First World War) is an Arts Council-funded project to experiment with ways in which biographical research can be presented as an operatic play. This is a workshop showcase, demonstrating sections of the play, and in conversation with the author Kate Kennedy, composer Tim Watts and Director James Bonas.

The event is free but booking is essential:

Hilary Term 2018

Weinrebe Lecture
Wednesday 24 January 5:30 – 7pm
Writing Women: the fourth generation

Novelist Kamila Shamsie considers what it means to be part of the fourth generation of women writers in a family, and how family history might work its way into fictional representations of women across continents and centuries, despite the paucity of autobiographical content in her novels.

Weinrebe Lecture
Wednesday 31 January 5:30 – 7pm
Not things seen, always things imagined

Rachel Holmes speaks about Sylvia Pankhurst’s visionary approach to art, politics and life-writing. Rachel is the author of Eleanor Marx: A Life, serialised on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize.

Weinrebe Lecture
Wednesday 7 February 5:30 – 7pm
Sex, politics and selfhood: girls’ life-writing and historical change, Britain 1800-1900.

The Victorian cult of the little girl encouraged the idealisation of female children as the embodiment of purity, yet the conceptualisation of girlhood was fraught.  The sexual age of consent for girls remained  12 years old until 1875; and practices which have become taboo in our culture (the photographing of little girls in the nude, or the encouragement of intimate friendships between adult men and young girls) were widely normalised.

In this talk Professor Kathryn Gleadle will consider how girls themselves perceived sexuality, intimacy  and  attraction through introducing some of the many girlhood diaries that have hitherto lain neglected in archives. These often startling journals explode many assumptions about nineteenth-century girlhood. They  indicate that even young girls could articulate a sense of sexual selfhood. Indeed, for many, a consciousness of politics and civic life was often entangled with these intimate facets of their subjectivity. In a century in which British women gained significant social and political advances such findings raise profound and sometimes troubling questions concerning the complex relationships between gender and political identity in this period.

Weinrebe Lecture
Monday 12 February 5:30 – 7pm
The Rhetorical Voice

Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker explores the meaning of rhetorical voice in drama, in her work and in the work of other playwrights. Is the rhetorical voice different when it is female rather than male? Timberlake is the Chair of Playwriting at the University of East Anglia, and artistic adviser to RADA.

Tuesday 27 February 5:30 – 7pm
What counts as evidence?

A photograph, a letter, a bracelet with a story… many of us have objects that we count as evidence for something. The object clearly exists, but how sure are we about our conclusions? Members of the College will present objects and their stories, and will be cross-examined by a panel of experts from Archaeology, Law, and the Police.

Convened by Philomen Probert and Kate Kennedy

Tuesday 6 March 1 – 2pm, Haldane Room
Life-Writing Lunch – Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers

In this talk, we shall hear of the challenges and opportunities of writing a biography of the one of the most brilliant and original thinkers of the last century—the great Cambridge philosopher, economist, and mathematician, Frank Ramsey. He was at least Wittgenstein’s equal in philosophy, and a major influence on his difficult friend. He is the founder of rational choice theory. He wrote two classic papers for Keynes, each sparking a branch of economics. The eight pages of mathematics he published is now a fruitful branch of combinatoric mathematics called Ramsey Theory.

Beyond his scholarship, he had a fascinating life. He began his Cambridge undergraduate degree just as the Great War was ending; he was part of the race to be psychoanalyzed in Vienna in the 1920s; he was a core member of the Apostles during one of its most vital periods; he was part of Bloomsbury and the Guild Socialist movement. All of this, and more, was accomplished in under a decade. Ramsey died in 1930, just shy of his 27th birthday.

Join us for lunch to hear Professor Cheryl Misak discuss the challenges of writing Ramsey’s biography. Lunch is free, registration essential.

Saturday 17 March 10 – 5pm
Transnational Lives and Cosmopolitan Communities

This one-day conference will examine the relationship between life-writing, transnationalism and language-led research. Key questions to be explored include: the representation of cosmopolitan identities; the transnational circulation of fame; and the tangled relationship between creativity, migration, and exile. Convened by Philip Bullock and Sandra Mayer in collaboration with the “Writing 1900” research network.

Fee £20 (£10 concessions). Register here.

Michaelmas Term 2017 at Wolfson College

Tuesday 17 October 5:30 – 7pm, Darwin’s Beard – and other adventures in Victorian facial hair, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
When Victorian men started growing their beards from the 1850s, what exactly did they think they were doing? More importantly who were they doing it for? In this illustrated talk, Kathryn Hughes, author of Victorians Undone, discusses the politics of facial hair in the nineteenth century and reveals the surprising stories of the men and women behind some of the period’s best known beards.

Kathryn Hughes is Professor of Life Writing at the University of East Anglia and a contracted writer for the Guardian newspaper.  She has written prize-winning biographies of George Eliot and Mrs Beeton.  Her most recent book is Victorians Undone, a study of five famous Victorians’ body parts.

Wednesday 25th October 5.30 – 7pm, Tennyson, Celebrity and Portraiture, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
This lecture, the first of our Lives and Letters strand, will explore how publishers became responsible for promoting authors through portraiture in the mid-Victorian period. In particular it will focus on Edward Moxon and his role in expanding the readership of both William Wordsworth and Alfred Tennyson. While portraits of Wordsworth were relatively scarce, Tennyson was surrounded by sculptors, painters and photographers, which led to a new and disturbing experience of literary celebrity that had a major impact on his career.

Jim Cheshire is Reader in Cultural History at the University of Lincoln. His research examines the literary and visual culture of the nineteenth century and thematically is centred on Victorian medievalism. He has recently been working on the relationship between the literary and material culture surrounding the career of Alfred Tennyson. Several related publications discuss the importance of the physical form and visual appearance of Tennyson’s poetry and how this might have influenced the way that his poetry was read. He recently published a monograph about Edward Moxon (Tennyson’s publisher) and his impact on Victorian poetry.

Wednesday 1 November 5:30 – 7pm, No-one lies like an eye witness: uncovering truths in fact and fiction, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
Writers don’t actually make anything up.  All their ideas are borrowed from somewhere or someone.  They inevitably mine their own lives and the lives of other people for ideas, inspiration and concrete details.  But does anyone have the right to tell any story?  What are the writer’s responsibilities when laying bare his / her own life – or the lives of others?  Fact and fiction may be blurred but are there boundaries which should never be crossed?

Alice Jolly published a memoir in 2015 called Dead Babies And Seaside Towns, which won the Pen / Ackerley Award. One of her short stories won the 2014 V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize, awarded by The Royal Society of Literature. She has also published two novels with Simon and Schuster and four of her plays have been produced by the professional company of the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University and will soon be publishing her third novel Between The Regions Of Kindness with Unbound in March 2018.

Saturday 4 November 2 – 6pm, Life-writing and Female Celebrity, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
Part of OCLW’s Life-Writing and Celebrity strand, this half-day colloquium, convened by Sandra Mayer in collaboration with TORCH Oxford,  will explore the gendered dynamics and cultural values at work in the creation, representation, and consumption of celebrity. Featuring a keynote lecture by author Patricia Duncker and contributions by Stella Tillyard, Ruth Scobie, Mary Luckhurst, Oline Eaton, and Hannah Yelin.

To view the colloquium programme, please click here.
Abstracts and speaker biographies are here.
To view the poster, please click here.

Tuesday 7 November 5:30 – 7pm, Ghostwriting and Biography, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
This panel brings together writers and scholars to consider the implications of ghostwriting in the context of biographical and novelistic practice, publishing, and the media industries. Author and critic Andrew O’Hagan will speak about his new book, The Secret Life, which partly recounts his experience of being commissioned to ghostwrite Julian Assange’s autobiography. He will be joined by Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, and biographer and psychotherapist Brett Kahr, author of the ‘posthumous interviews’ Tea with Winnicott and Coffee with Freud.

Tuesday 14 November 1 – 2pm, Life-Writing Lunch, Haldane Room
The contemporary market for the consumption of real lives has led to an increasing demand for performers to play or impersonate real people. In this presentation, Professor Mary Luckhurst will explore the ethical issues inherent in the staging of real lives.

Mary Luckhurst is Professor of Artistic Research and Creative Practice at the University of Melbourne. She is a theatre director, writer, theatre historian and a pioneer of practice as research. She is a world expert on dramaturgy and on analysing and articulating the applied processes writing, acting and directing in theatre-making. She is a specialist in modern drama and her many books include Dramaturgy: A Revolution in Theatre; On Acting; On Directing; Theatre and Celebrity, and Playing for Real, as well as two Blackwells Companions on British and Irish Theatre.

Tuesday 21 November 5:30 – 7pm, Lives and Letters, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
This discussion centres on an understanding and appreciation of letters as repositories of complex meaning, creating unique possibilities that weave together the textual, visual, material, biographical, and cultural. With three distinguished Professors of English Literature:

Matt Bevis, Keble College, Oxford
Edward Lear: Hits and Misses.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Magdalen College, Oxford
Mind the Gap.

Hugh Haughton, University of York
Possums and Salamanders: Revelation and Concealment in Modernist letters.

Tuesday 28 November 5:30 – 7pm, New Directions in Life-Writing: an OCLW doctoral students panel, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium

The recently completed and completing doctoral students affiliated with OCLW would like to share their doctoral work revealing new contributions to life-writing studies across genres and disciplines in 19th and 20th century literature, history and cinema.

Alexis Brown
Adapting Sylvia Plath: Life-Writing in the Cinema.

Bárbara Gallego Larrarte
Reverse Intergenerational Influence Between the World Wars.

Lyndsey Jenkins
From Mills to Militants: The Kenney Sisters, Suffrage and Social Reform, c.1890 – 1970.

Nanette O’Brien
Culinary Civilization: The Representation of Food in Anglo and American Modernism.

Academic Year 2016-2017

Trinity Term 2017 at Wolfson College

26 April from 2pm
Baritone Roderick Williams: masterclass, interview and recital.

2pm    Masterclass with young singers
5pm    In Conversation with Professor Philip Ross Bullock (University of Oxford).
For more information and tickets, click here.

2 May 5:00 – 7pm LWA
Nicoletta Demetriou: Cypriot Fiddlers film screening

The Cypriot Fiddler is an attempt to trace the life stories of a dying class of traditional musicians on both sides of the Cypriot divide. The Cypriot Fiddler documentary, released in 2016, was entirely funded by members of the public through an online crowd-sourcing campaign.

9 May 5:30 – 7pm
Richard Holmes: Pursuer or Pursued: Reflections on Biography

The lecture is given in memory of Professor Richard Ellmann, Fellow of Wolfson College from 1984-1987, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death and of the publication of his biography of Oscar Wilde.

12-13 May all day
Global Lives and Local Perspectives: New Approaches to Tibetan Life-writing

This two-day event is free of charge and lunch will be provided, but places are limited and registration essential. To register, please email

15 May 6:00pm
Simon Armitage and Bernard O’Donoghue: Poems of Life and Death – a reading 

23 May 1:00 – 2pm
Life Writing Lunch: Faith Biographies

Professors Heather Walton & Peter Ackers discuss writing biographies of faith. Register online here. A buffet sandwich lunch will be provided.

27 May 10:00 – 5:30pm
Lives of Houses colloquium

A day of papers and panel discussions looking at the ways in which a well-known individual’s life is presented and preserved through the architecture and material culture of their home. Registration essential! Click here to reserve your place.

30 May 5:30 – 7pm
Film director Clio Barnard: A discussion and screening of her film The Selfish Giant

 The Selfish Giant is a 2013 British drama film inspired by the Oscar Wilde story. It won the Europa Cinemas award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and Best Film at the 24th Stockholm International Film Festival. It was nominated for the 2014 Bafta.

6 June 5:30 – 7pm
Mark Lawson on interviews, with Hermione Lee

 A ‘meta interview’: critic and biographer Professor Dame Hermione Lee and arts journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson about the art and method of the interview.

8 July 9:00 – 6:30pm
Dancing Lives conference

How do people write about the lives of dancers and choreographers? How does dance as a silent form represent life stories? A combination of practical demonstration, film, biographers, practitioners, discussion and speakers. The day includes coffees, wine and lunch. Speakers including Dame Monica Mason. (£20 / £10 unwaged)

Hilary Term 2017

Tuesday 17 January, 5:30-7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
The Celebrity Interview: History, Aesthetics, Method


WEINREBE LECTURE SERIES: ‘Writing World Lives’ 1
Tuesday 24 January, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Patrick French: ‘How to Write a World Life’

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

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

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


Saturday 25 February, 2-6pm, LWA
Self/knowledge: Autobiography and Research

How can you research yourself; and how does the self affect research? Drawing on multiple perspectives from across the humanities and social sciences, from medieval romance to stand-up comedy, speakers will explore the relationship between autobiography and academic research.

Thursday 9 March, 5:30-7pm, LWA
ODNB Discussion panel: Beyond the Book

Donald MacLeod, presenter Composer of the Week BBC Radio 3
Rachel Cooke, author ‘Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s’
Susan Walker, Archaeologist, Wolfson College.

Michaelmas Term 2016

Friday 14 October, 5:30pm Florey Room
Michèle Roberts and Caroline Isgar
The Secret Staircase: talk to launch an exhibition of artefacts from the Foundling Museum

Further details: The Secret Staircase: private view and talk by Michèle Roberts and Caroline Isgar

Tuesday 25 October, 5:30-7pm Haldane Room
Stephanie Bishop
The Truth in Fiction

Saturday 5 November, all day,  Leonard Wolfson Auditorium (LWA)
Colloquium: Biography Beyond Borders: American and European biography
Organized by Biographers International Organisation
Registration and further details:

Tuesday 8 November, 1-2pm Haldane Room
Life-writing lunch: Sally Bayley
The Private Life of the Diary
Register via (browse ‘Products’ for ‘Oxford Centre for Life-Writing’). A buffet sandwich lunch will be provided.

Further details: The Private Life of the Diary

Tuesday 8 November, 5:30-7pm, LWA
Gary Sheffield
The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army

Saturday 19 November, 9-5pm, LWA
Colloquium: Celebiography: Celebrity and Life-Writing in Dialogue
Register via:

Tuesday 29 November, 5:30-7pm, LWA
ODNB Discussion panel: Constructing Lives (including biographer Alexander Masters)

Trinity Term 2016

Tuesday 26 April, 1-2pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College

Life-Writing Lunch – Karen Lamb talks about her biography of Astley, one of Australia’s most complex and fascinating writers.

Tuesday 3 May, 5:30-7pm, LWA (Leonard Wolfson Auditorium)

Panel discussion: Life-Writing and the Digital Humanities. Chair: David Robey, panellists: Max Saunders, Lorna Hughes, Robin Dunbar. This event is in collaboration with TORCH.

Monday 9 May, 11-5 pm, LWA

Conference: Philosophy and Autobiography, in conjunction with the Forum for European Philosophy in Oxford.

Tuesday 10 May, 5.30-7pm, LWA

Ruth Scurr: ‘John Aubrey: My Own Life, Thoughts on Biographical Innovation’ -Ruth talks about her innovative biography of the C17th literary pioneer, written in his own voice.

Monday 16 May, 5:30-7pm, LWA

Workshop: Simon Armitage ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go? – Travel Writing and Memoir, a reading and discussion’

Tuesday 24 May, 5.30-7pm, Haldane Room

Rachel Cooke: ‘Her Brilliant Career: Putting Women Back in the Picture’

13 – 14 June, all day, LWA

Conference: Literary Journalism and Latin-American Wars: ‘Revolutions, Retributions, Resignation.

Tuesday 21 June, all day, Bodleian Library / Wolfson College

Joint TORCH / OCLW Conference: ‘Speaking in Absence: Letters in the Digital Age’ For more information see the Digital Epistolary Network website.

Academic Year 2013-2014

Trinity Term

19 May (Week 4), 5.30-7pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College:

Seminar: ‘Writing Family Memoir’ with Lyndall Gordon. This year’s Wolfson Public Lecture Series, themed around South Asian writing, articulated a clear interest in family memoir. This OCLW seminar featured the biographer Lyndall Gordon (biographer of Emily Dickinson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Henry James, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) who discussed family memoir and her latest book, Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter.

3 June (Week 6), 5.30-8pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Lecture: Hermione Lee on Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life. OCLW’s director Hermione Lee read from her recent acclaimed biography of the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald. This special event was followed by a celebratory drinks reception in the Haldane Room, Wolfson College.

13 June (Week 7), 2-6pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Workshop: ‘Coetzee’s Lives’. Featuring David Attwell, Professor of Modern Literature at the University of York, this afternoon workshop built on themes raised by the preceding day’s reading by the acclaimed author J.M. Coetzee. Convened by Elleke Boehmer; Please direct queries to

17 June (Week 8), 1-2pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College:

Life-Writing Lunch Seminar: Mark Thompson spoke about his biography of the Serbian and Yugoslavian novelist Danilo Kis, Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kis, and the question, ‘how do you write a literary biography?’ The Life-Writing Lunch is a termly seminar series, in which auto/biographers discuss their work in an informal, friendly setting over a sandwich lunch.

2 July (Week 10), 9-6pm, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Oxford:

Conference: Procrastination – Cultural Explorations. Winners of the OCLW-TORCH Postgraduate Conference Award, Danielle Yardy and Elizabeth Chatterjee convened a one-day conference exploring the phenomenon of procrastination, and the fraught moral and political claims it provokes. For more information, please see, follow the conference on Twitter (@ProcrastinOx), or email the convenors at

Hosted Events at OCLW

8 May (Week 2), 10-6pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Conference: ‘Genius for Sale! Artistic Production and Economic Context in the Long Nineteenth Century’. This one-day conference brought together scholars from a number of disciplines to examine the relationship between creative output and economic forces in the long nineteenth century, a period that saw a radical transformation in the economic circumstances facing artists. It featured scholars who have produced detailed qualitative studies of the impact of economic context on artistic production and those who have turned to quantitative methods to study cultural output. Speakers included economists, historians, economic historians, art historians, and modern linguists who work on different kinds of cultural production (art, music and literature) in diverse geographic settings. Convenors: Jonathan Paine and Diana Greenwald. Please see for more information, or email

Hilary Term

The Weinrebe Lectures in Life-Writing: ‘Voicing the Self’

Tuesday 4 February (Week 3), 5.30pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Blake Morrison, ‘“The Worst Thing I Ever Did”: Confession and the Contemporary Memoir’

Thursday 13 February (Week 4), 5.30pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Edward St Aubyn in conversation with Hermione Lee

Tuesday 18 February (Week 5), 5.30pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Richard Holmes, ‘The Biographer’s Other I’

Tuesday 25 February (Week 6), 5.30pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Marina Warner, ‘Hearing Voices, Travelling Back’

Other Events

Tuesday 28 January (Week 2), 5-7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

‘An OCLW Workshop on Literary Letters’: A workshop on literary letters from the 18th century to the present day. Papers explored aspects of genre, reciprocity, self- presentation and the material culture of letters, and considered individual letter-writers such as Samuel Johnson, Keats, Coleridge, Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Yeats, and Isaiah Berlin. Convened by Professor Pamela Clemit. Speakers included: John Barnard, Pamela Clemit, Grace Egan, Daniel Hitchens, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay, Mark Pottle, Henriette van der Blom, Maria Rita Drumond Viana. For information, please contact

Wednesday 19 February (Week 5), 5.30-7pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College:

‘Work-in-Progress Seminar’: OCLW’s Visiting Scholar, Dr Tracey Potts (Nottingham), and Visiting Doctoral Students, Jeffrey Gutierrez (Brown), Sophie Scott-Brown (ANU) and Maria Rita Drummond Viana (Sao Paolo) discussed the research they have conducted whilst in residence at OCLW.

Tuesday 4 March (Week 7), 5.30-7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Lecture: Tom Couser (Hofstra), ‘The Work of Memoir; or, Why Memoir Matters’. This lecture was followed by a drinks reception in the LWA foyer.

Thursday 6 March (Week 7), 5.30-7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College:

Lecture: Paul Strohm (Columbia), ‘Was there Life-Writing in the Middle Ages?’

Tuesday 11 March (Week 8), 1-2pm, Haldane Room,

Life-Writing Lunch Seminar: ‘Unrolling the tapestry – weaving inter-related lives in books and exhibitions’. James Hamilton discussed his path to writing about the life of J. M. W. Turner.

Hosted Events at OCLW

20-22 March 2014, Isaiah Berlin’s Enlightenment: a two-day interdisciplinary conference was held at OCLW to examine Isaiah Berlin’s view of the Enlightenment and the presence of the Enlightenment in his work. For information, please contact Professor Ritchie Robertson,

15-16 April 2014, The Sixteenth Oxford Dance Symposium: The Dancer in Celebrity Culture in the Long Eighteenth Century: Reputations, Images, Portraits. Building on the success of the 2009 symposium, ‘Dance and Image’, the 16th Oxford Dance Symposium, in association with the Oxford centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, explored dancer celebrity in all its forms. There was a particular focus on dancers’ portraits, and also on the wider issues of patronage, practice and philosophy of dance during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. For more information, please visit

Michaelmas Term

4 October 2013: ‘Navigating Networks: Women, Travel, and Female Communities’: a one-day conference at Wolfson College, convened by Hannah Sikstrom of the Travel Cultures Seminar. Please contact or see

22 Oct 2013, 5.30-7pm: Kathryn Hughes, ‘George Eliot’s Milk Churn’. Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Oxford.

24 Oct 2013, 5.30-7pm: Hermione Lee and Ray Monk (Southampton; author of Robert Oppenheimer: Inside the Centre) in conversation. Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Oxford.

29 Oct 2013, 5-7pm: ‘From Life-Writing to Death Notices: Obituary, Portraiture and Commemoration’. Seminar convened by Professor David Zeitlyn (Oxford), featuring Neil George (Producer of BBC Radio 4’s Last Word), Martin Rowson (cartoonist and writer), Laurence Goldman (editor of DNB), Shearer West (Professor of History of Art, Oxford), Harry de Quetteville (obituary editor, Daily Telegraph). Haldane Room, Wolfson College, Oxford. For more information, please contact .

13 Nov 2013, 5.30-7pm: ‘War Veterans: Memory and Storytelling’. Seminar convened by Kate McLoughlin (Birkbeck) and Celeste-Marie Bernier (Nottingham). Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Oxford. For more information, please contact

19 Nov 2013, 5.30-7pm: lecture by David Amigoni (Keele): ‘Writing lives, inscribing familial distinction: inheritance, science and culture in life writings by the Darwins, the Huxleys, and the Batesons’. Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Oxford.

29 November 2013: ‘Intimate Archives: Photography and Life-Writing’: a one-day conference at Wolfson College, convened by Lee-Von Kim (Oxford) and Christine Fouirnaies (Oxford). For more information, please contact

3 Dec 2013, 1-2pm: life-writing lunch with Marcus Ferrar. OCLW’s termly life-writing lunchtime seminar:  Haldane Room, Wolfson College.

Academic Year 2012-2013

Trinity Term

Tuesday 7 May, 5.30-7pm (Haldane Room): OCLW hosted a seminar on ‘Cognitive Archaeology: Life-Writing and Alzheimer’s’, with Dr Peter Garrard and Dr Samrah Ahmed. The earliest stages of cognitive decline dementia are difficult to pinpoint, yet early detection is of significant importance to understanding Alzheimer’s disease and initiating suitable treatment. A number of authors have used retrospective analysis to describe preclinical linguistic decline in written texts and spoken language samples. This talk reviewed the methods available for classifying and comparing such samples, and presented some analyses of historical texts derived from verbatim records of preclinical spoken activity, for example in the writings of celebrated English novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1922e1999), who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1997.

Friday 3 May, 9.30am-5.30pm (Haldane Room): Workshop: ‘Narrating a Life: Memoir and Autobiography’. £80/£55.  

This full-day immersion in the practice of memoir and autobiography took place in the beautiful surroundings of Wolfson College, Oxford, and was led by some of the leading practitioners in modern life-writing, including the poet, autobiographer and critic Carmen Bugan, OCLW’s director Hermione Lee, OCLW’s associate director Elleke Boehmer and OCLW’s research fellow Rachel Hewitt. Participants enjoyed talks and lectures by prestigious guest speakers, practical workshops and group activities, discussing their work with leading life-writers, and the opportunity to meet and befriend contemporaries who are working on the act of narrating their own lives, all in convivial surroundings.

Monday 22 April 2013, 5.30-7pm (Haldane Room): OCLW hosted a seminar, ”Write me down, make me real’ – The modern state and how our lives are written.’ The seminar featured the following papers:

Eddy Higgs (Essex): ‘British state bureaucracy and the official biography of the citizen’
Jane Caplan (Bryn Mawr and Birkbeck): ‘”Our souls were in our names”. How the state rewrites identity.’
Gayle Lonergan (Oxford): ‘The census in Bulgaria: Official statistics as narratives of the state’

A report and podcast of the event will be posted shortly.

Hilary Term

Saturday 9 March 2013 (Week 8): OCLW was excited to be organising a one-day symposium to mark the centenary of Leonard Woolf’s path-breaking novel, The Village in the JunglePlease visit the symposium webpages for more information. Podcasts coming soon…

Tuesday 5 March 2013 (Week 8): This term’s Life-Writing Lunch seminar was given by Dr Selina Todd (St Hilda’s, Oxford), who delivered a talk entitled ‘The People: A Life History of the British Working Class’. In this presentation Selina discussed her experience of writing a history of the British working class in the 20th century through the use of personal testimonies. These include oral history interviews, archived social survey interviews and published and unpublished autobiographies. Class is both a personal identity and a political relationship in modern Britain, and writing about it in the way Selina choses to do has some benefits, but also some potential pitfalls, on which she reflected. In discussing this, she touched on the ways that both generation and gender shape life history narratives, and also about the ways that the stories she heard have contradicted some of the more politicised metanarratives of the 20th century current in politics today (primarily about the consequences of the 1944 Education Act). Selina also discussed the role of the researcher in such a project, both in crafting the stories themselves, and in her relationship with publishers – who often want more autobiographical writing than a historian is prepared to give….

Thursday 28 February 2013 (Week 7): ‘Life-Writing Across Borders’. This seminar, organised by Professors Michael Sheringham and Laura Marcus in conjunction with the European Humanities Research Centre), explored current issues in comparative auto/biography.


Conveners: Prof Laura Marcus and Prof Michael Sheringham


4.30pm start

Dr Lee-Von Kim (New College), ‘Visible Lives’

Dr Ian Maclachlan (Merton) ‘Traces of a life, between poem and fragment: Louis-René des Forêts’s autobiographical writings’.

Professor Laura Marcus (New College) ‘Biographical Fictions’

Dr Ben Morgan (Worcester) ‘Life writing and human interaction: Kafka reads Kierkegaard’

Michael Sheringham (All Souls) ‘Archival Lives: Foucault and Film’

Life-Writing Workshops

OCLW is delighted to announce that we are organising a series of practical workshops designed to assist and support auto/biographers. The first of this series, ‘Shaping the Sources’, took place on Tuesday 26 February (Week 7), from 7.30pm-9.30pm, in the Haldane Room at Wolfson College. This was led by OCLW’s director, Professor Hermione Lee, and OCLW’s Advisory Committee member Dr Julie Curtis. The workshop provided practical guidance regarding the location, management and shaping of source materials (archival and otherwise). For information about forthcoming workshops, click here.

Over five weeks between 22 January and 19 February 2013, OCLW hosted its annual series of Weinrebe Lectures on the subject of ‘Life-Writing and Portraiture’.

Tuesday 22 January 2013 (Week 2): Martin Gayford (art critic; author of A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney and Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud) spoke about having a portrait painted by Lucian Freud. (5.30pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College). Please click here to access a podcast of this lecture.

Tuesday 29 January 2013 (Week 3): Paula Byrne (biographer; author of Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson and Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead) delivered a lecture entitled ‘The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things’, and launched her new biography of Jane Austen, The Real Jane Austen, at OCLW. (5.30pm, Hall, Wolfson College). Please click here to access a podcast of this lecture.

Tuesday 5 February 2013 (Week 4): Ludmilla Jordanova (historian; author of Defining Features: Scientific and Medical Portraits: 1660-2000 and The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice)  delivered a lecture entitled ‘Traces of Life’. (5.30pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College)

Tuesday 12 February 2013 (Week 5)Stella Tillyard (historian; author of Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 and Tides of War: A Novel of the Peninsula War) delivered a lecture entitled ‘”Bright Metal on a Sullen Ground”: The Idea of True Character in English Writing and Portraiture’. (5.30pm, Hall, Wolfson College). Please click here to access a podcast of this event.

Tuesday 19 February 2013 (Week 6): the 2013 Weinrebe series of Lectures in Life-Writing closed with a seminar and round-table discussion. Professors David Bradshaw, Elleke Boehmer and Laura Marcus, and OCLW’s life-writing scholars Christine Fournaies, Nicoletta Demetriou, Grace Egan and Oli Hazzard discussed the intersection of their own research into life-writing with themes and ideas about portraiture that were brought to light by the Weinrebe Lecture series. (5.30pm, Haldane Room, Wolfson College).

Michaelmas Term

On Tuesday 27 November 2012 (Week 8), Dr Oliver Herford (Lincoln College, Oxford) gave the Life-Writing Lunch seminar. Oliver gave us an insight into his next research project: a study of the circulation and publication of the letters of nineteenth-century poets and novelists, especially Henry James and John Keats. In a careful, detailed and considered talk, Oliver isolated three episodes of writers’ epistolary comments being seized upon by critics, and drew our attention to the dangers and pitfalls for auto/biographers of according such comments undue or inappropriate significance.                                                                                                                     

On Wednesday 21 November 2012 (Week 7), renowned psychologist, literary critic and essayist Adam Phillips delivered a lecture on his work on ‘Freud’s Impossible Life’. Phillips’ lecture began by providing an empirical outline of Freud’s life, from birth to death, replete with date-related facts regarding various landmarks in the psychoanalyst’s life. But Phillips then went on to question the certainty and value of such facts, and to trouble the practise of auto/biography by casting doubt upon its task of representing the past. For Freud, biography was the “worst sort of fiction”; biographers were “the enemy”, and life-stories were attempts to mis-lead their readers. If – as psychoanalysis suggests – the past is something that we continuously re-write in order to craft a future for ourselves, then that past is always unstable, and the biographer’s aspiration to set in stone a particular view of that past is, at best, highly flawed. In a careful, considered, emotionally poignant talk, Adam Phillips showed how Freud’s misgivings about biography reveal important ideas about his conception of the function of psychoanalysis.

You can download a podcast of Phillips’ lecture here.

9 November 2012: ‘The 5th Biannual WAR-Net Conference: War and Life-Writing

This MHRA-sponsored one-day interdisciplinary conference was organised jointly by the War and Representation Network (WAR-Net) and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Researchers from the fields of literature, theatre, history, art history, graphic arts, film, anthropology, psychology, cultural studies, gender studies, media studies, museum studies, and others assembled to discuss the ways in which the experience of war (on both home and battle front, and of any period) is represented in the life writing genres. ‘Writing’ was understood in its broadest sense, to cover not only letters, diaries, memoirs, biography, autobiography and fiction, but also oral testimony, film, portraiture, personal collections and digital media. Please click here to download the provisional conference schedule.

25 October 2012

The term got off to a wonderful start, with a stimulating and personal lecture entitled ‘Containing Multitudes: Writing About Pevsner‘, by Susie Harries, on the task of writing a biography of the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, best known for his 46-volume series of county-by-county guides, The Buildings of England.

You can listen to a podcast of Susie’s lecture here.

28-29 September 2012

Beyond Biography: New Perspectives on Tibetan Life-Writing” was the first larger collaboration between the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Research Cluster and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Tibet has an unusually rich tradition of biographical writing, the larger part of which is still waiting to be explored. The aim of the conference was to view Tibetan biographies and auto¬biographies within the broader context of life-writing across the world and to explore new avenues of interpretation and understanding, addressing for instance literary theory, cross-cultural perspectives, art history, and the pragmatics of (re-)enactment of life-stories.

The conference was opened by Hermione Lee and began with a lively dialogue on auto-biography by Elleke Boehmer and Laura Marcus who addressed some of the burning questions that are specific to Tibetan and Buddhist life-writing: How does the belief in reincarnation affect the way a life is viewed and told? How is an individual life story presented in a culture whose predominant philosophy deconstructs the notion of a “self”? The other conference papers focused on Tibetan material, complemented by a paper on the autobiographies of Buddhist masters from Thailand. They analysed the liteary features of Tibetan biographies (such as the interplay of prose and song), looked at different types of biographies (public and “secret” life stories), discussed Tibeto-Monglian interactions and the notion of bio-geography (the way life stories are embedded and re-enacted in their respective locations), and even forshadowed themes of the upcoming conference on “The Lives of Objects” (2013) by a case study of the “secret lives” of sacred objects in some villages of northern Nepal.

During the conference, participants were introduced to the “Treasury of Lives” internet resource and saw images from the photo collection of the late Michael Aris. Speakers and participants enjoyed the warm environment of Wolfson and Oxford, and the discussions continued long into the night in varying locations. The conference was a stimulating experience and led to the resolution not only to publish the conference papers, but also to plan similar follow-up conferences in the future.


Academic Year 2011-2012

Trinity Term

Saturday 7 July, 2012.  Wolfson College, Oxford.

Public Lecture: Jonathan Bate, Ted Hughes and Shakespeare’s Poems

On 7th July 2012, Professor Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford, gave a rich and exciting lecture on Ted Hughes and Shakespeare’s poems which was the final event in the conference Renaissance Poetic Form: New Directions organised by Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Ben Burton. This presented some of Bate’s findings from the biography he is currently working on, Ted Hughes: The Inner Life. The lecture was a careful excavation of the thinking behind Hughes’s edition of A Choice of Shakespeare’s Verse and the relationship between this volume and The Goddess of Complete Being. Bate suggested provocatively that Hughes ‘refracted’ personal biography through reading Shakespeare to the point that we might speak of Shakespeare ‘reading’ Hughes rather than the other way around. While Hughes’s overarching theory of a common ‘structure of feeling’ in Shakespeare’s work ‘does violence to genre’, the lecture also called attention to perceptiveness of Hughes’s close reading as well as the ways in which his own theories anticipate in some ways the recent ‘turn to Religion’ and analyses of post-Reformation culture in Shakespeare scholarship.

For further information, see or


Tuesday 12 June (Week 8)

The Buttery, Wolfson College

Life-Writing Lunch

Dr Nicoletta Demetriou (Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford) spoke about the ways in which biography can sometimes turn into autobiography, taking the lead from her work on Lawrence Durrell and Cyprus.


Thursday 14 June (Week 8)

The Florey Room, Wolfson College

Travel Cultures Research Seminar

Katharina Pink (Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich) delivered a paper entitled “Neither the Desert nor the Sown’: Gertrude Bell’s Traces in the No Man’s Land Between the Binaries of Representation”, and discussed a collaborative project on which she is currently working: “Encountering the Other: A Poetics of British Travel Writing”, led by Prof. Christoph Bode. DPhil English candidates Hannah Sikstrom (Brasenose) and Kimberly Marsh (St Cross) also presented papers on their research into travel literature, ahead of becoming convenors of the Travel Cultures from Michaelmas Term 2012.


Friday 8 June (Week 7)

The Haldane Room, Wolfson College

The poet and writer Carmen Bugan came to the OCLW for the book launch of her new memoir, Burying the Typewriter. The author was introduced by the poet and OCLW Advisory Committee member, Prof. Jon Stallworthy, and gave an insight into the making of the book, as well as a reading from the work.


Thursday 31 May (Week 6)

The Buttery, Wolfson College

Dr Terri Ochiagha (University of Alicante, and Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, for Trinity Term) delivered a seminar entitled “Using Memoirs of Colonial Education as a Source for Literary History: The Case of Government College Umuahia and the Emergence of First Generation Nigerian Writing”. The seminar was based on Dr. Ochiagha’s research for her monograph, In Unum Luceant: Government College, Umuahia and Nigeria’s First Generation Writers, which (to borrow from the account of the research provided by Dr Ochiaga) offers the first exhaustive analysis of the historical and ideological reasons behind the creation of the institution, its humanistic and literary ambience, and the ways in which specific texts, events and relationships have inscribed themselves into the lives and posterior work of Nigerian authors Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Elechi Amadi, Chukwuemeka Ike, and Chike Momah, all of whom studied in the college between 1944-1952.


Tuesday 22 May 2012 (Week 5), The Ashmolean Museum

OCLW teamed up with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, to offer members an exclusive ‘after-hours’ tour of the exhibition ‘The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland’, with a talk by exhibition curator Catherine Whistler, and a drinks reception. The museum opened specially to welcome OCLW’s members, offering a rare opportunity to enjoy the exhibition without the press of numbers.


1-15 May 2012‘Life-Writing and New Media’: A Series of Panel Discussions

The speakers at these events – leaders in their field – discussed the impact of social networks, email correspondence, and digital archives on the study and practice of life-writing in the twenty-first century.

5.30pm-7pm, Tuesday 1 May (Week 2): Life-Writing and New Media (incl. Twitter, Facebook and blogging). The Haldane Room, Wolfson College.

Speakers included Professor Clare Brant (KCL), Dr Claire Lynch (Brunel), Dr Kate O’Riordan (Sussex) and Professor Sue Thomas (De Montfort).

5.30pm-7pm, Tuesday 8 May (Week 3): Life-Writing, Correspondence and Technological Change. The Haldane Room, Wolfson College.

Speakers included Grace Egan (Oxford), Dr Chris Fletcher (Oxford), Dr Margaretta Jolly (Sussex), and Dr Marie Isabel Schlinzig (Oxford).

5.30pm-7pm, Tuesday 15 May (Week 4): Life-Writing, Archives and Digitisation. The Buttery, Wolfson College.

Speakers included Dr Ulrike Roesler (Oxford), Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL), Dr Caroline Shenton (Parliamentary Archives) and Liz Baird (Oxford).


18-19 May 2012 (Week 4): Conference on ‘Religious Lives: Catholic Culture in the Early Modern World’ 

On 18 and 19 May 2012, St Edmund Hall, Oxford, hosted a conference exploring how the life-stories of Catholic men and women dominated the culture of early modern Catholicism. You can download some information about the conference here; for more information, please contact Victoria Van Hyning at the University of Sheffield. Please note that OCLW is not responsible for any aspect of the administration of this conference.


19-21 April 2012

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing hosted a one-day conference organised by the European Network on the Theory and Practice of Biography, on 20-21 April 2012. The conference theme is ‘Life-Writing in Europe: Private Lives, Public Spheres and Biographical Interpretations.’

Please note that while this conference was hosted by OCLW, we are not responsible for its administration. Please contact Professor Roy Foster for any queries regarding the event.


Friday 20 April

9.30. Welcome Address: Hermione Lee. Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and President of Wolfson College.
10.00-11.00. Opening Lecture. Lucy Riall (Birkbeck College. University of London): “Warriors, Apostles and Martyrs: Biography and The Making of Modern Italy”.
11.00-11.30 Coffee Break
11.30-13.00 1st Session. Chair: Roy Foster (Hertford College. University of Oxford)

Santos Juliá (UNED-Madrid): “Biography vs Stereotypes: The case of Manuel Azaña”

Robert Gerwarth (University College. Dublin): “Cold Empathy: Challenges in writing a life of Reinhard Heydrich”.

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.30 2nd Session.  Chair: Santos Juliá (UNED-Madrid)

Isabel Burdiel: “The Queen’s Two Bodies: Beyond private and public in the biography of Isabel II of Spain”. –

Javier Moreno (Universidad Complutense de Madrid): “The Crown and the Nation: Studying Alfonso XIII of Spain”.

15.30-16.00 Coffee Break

16.00-17.30 3rd Session. Chair: Giovanni Levi (University of Venice)

Maarit Leskelä-Karki (Institute for Advanced Studies. University of Turku, Finland): “Figures from the Shadow: On the Tradition of Women’s Biographical Writing in Finland”

Juan Pan-Montojo (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid): “The Spanish Basque Domingo Ordoñana: Progress, Civilization and Order in 19th Century Uruguay”

Saturday 21 April

9.30-11.00 4th Session. Chair: Mónica Bolufer (University of Valencia)

Birgitte Possing (Copenhagen University): “Bodil Koch: In Search of the Keys to a Biographical Analysis”.

Mónica Burguera (University de Valencia): “Performing Middle-Class Womanhood in 19th-Century Spain: The Memoirs of Juana de Vega, countess of Espoz y Mina”.

11.00-11.30: Coffee Break

11.30-13.00 5th Session. Chair: James Amelang (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Fernando Molina (Universidad del País Vasco): “Writing the self into the Nation: Autobiography, Nationalism and National Identity”

Roy Foster (Hertford College. University of Oxford): “Privates Lives and Posthumous Reputations: Love and affection among the Irish revolutionary generation, 1890-1916”


Hilary Term

1pm, Tuesday 6 March (Week 8)

Haldane Room, Wolfson College

OCLW’s Hilary Term was brought to a close with a Life-Writing Lunch, at which Dr Olivia Smith (St John’s, Oxford) gave a talk about her work on John Locke, and Literature as an Object of Knowledge


5.30pm, Tues 28 February

Haldane Room, Wolfson College

Biographers Daisy Hay (Young Romantics) and Pete Newbon (Children of the Romantics) gave generous, eloquent insights into their practice as biographers of groups of Romantic writers (in Daisy’s case, the Shelleys, Byron, Keats and Leigh Hunt; in Pete’s case, the children of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Charles Lamb). In stimulating talks, followed by a discussion, Daisy and Pete reflected on the particular challenges posed by exploring the lives of the Romantic poets, not as archetypal solitary geniuses, but as sociable beasts, deeply entangled in the ties of family and friends. This marked the end of this year’s Weinrebe Lectures in Life-Writing; next year’s series will be themed around ‘Life-Writing and Portraiture’.

5.30pm, Tues 21 February

The Hall, Wolfson College

The British-Libyan author Hisham Matar marked the first publication of his work in his home country by describing to a packed audience at Wolfson College the ‘existential crisis’ at the heart of contemporary Libyan national identity, and the corresponding existential exile embedded in the life of the writer. You can read a full report of Hisham’s talk – entitled ‘The Closest Exit May be Behind You’ – by clicking here. A podcast of the talk can be downloaded here.

5.30pm, Tues 14 February

The Hall, Wolfson College

The prize-winning author and memoirist Candia McWilliam delivered the third in the Weinrebe Series of Life-Writing Lectures, with a beautifully constructed talk, laden with metaphor, entitled ‘Where may truth lie? Fiction in memory, memory in Fiction’. You can read a full report of Candia’s talk by clicking here; and download a podcast of Candia’s talk here. 

5.30pm, Tues 7 February 

The Hall, Wolfson College

The second in the series of OCLW’s Weinrebe Lectures in Life-Writing was a lively and stimulating conversation between author Alan Hollinghurst and biographer (President of Wolfson College and director of OCLW) Hermione Lee, entitled ‘What can I say? Secrets in Fiction and Biography’. You can read a report of the conversation by clicking here, and listen to a podcast of the conversation here.


5.30pm, Thurs 2 February 2012:

The Hall, Wolfson College

OCLW’s Weinrebe Lectures in Life-Writing got off to a wonderful beginning with a lecture from renowned novelist and memoirist Michèle Roberts: ‘”Oh, you liar, you storyteller”: On Fibbing, Fact and Fabulation’. Roberts’ lecture offered a stimulating blend of moving personal accounts, and thought-provoking reflections on the theory of life-writing.

We are greatly looking forward to the rest of the lecture series! You can access the lecture programme here, or download it as a PDF file here. Listen to a podcast of the talk here.

Michaelmas Term

1-2pm, Tuesday 29 November (Week 8)

Wolfson College, Oxford.

OCLW’s Research Fellow, Dr Rachel Hewitt, kicked off our termly series of lunchtime seminars, the Life-Writing Lunch. Rachel spoke about her research on the early history of Britain’s mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey, which she published in October 2010 in her book Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey. Rachel considered the unexpected benefits of considering her book as a ‘biography’ of the OS, describing how close attention to the lives, preoccupations and connections of its chief personnel led her to surprising conclusions regarding the OS’s identity and purpose.

6pm, Tuesday 15 November (Week 6)

Wolfson College, Oxford

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing was officially launched with an inaugural lecture by Professor Michael Wood (Princeton), entitled ‘All About my Mother: Reading Proust’s Letters’. This was followed by a launch party. The evening was a wonderful start to the Centre!
Read a report of the evening and of Professor Wood’s lecture. A podcast of Professor Wood’s lecture is available here.

6pm, Tuesday 25 October (Week 3)

Lincoln’s Inn, London

Professor Hermione Lee gave a lecture entitled ‘“From Memory”: Isaiah Berlin, Literary Encounters and Life-Stories’

Read an account of the evening and access a podcast of Hermione’s talk here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: