List of Researchers/Writers

On this page, we are building a list of researchers and writers involved in life-writing. To be added to this list, please email us with: name; affiliation (if any) and academic position; a short description of your research and life-writing interests (keep this under 200 words); and a contact email address).

Elleke Boehmer

Professor of World Literature in English, University of Oxford

Internationally known for her research in postcolonial writing and theory and the literature of empire, Elleke Boehmer (BA(Hons), MPhil(Oxon), DPhil(Oxon)) currently works on questions of migration, identity and resistance in both postcolonial literature and writing of the colonial period, in particular of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.    A Rhodes Scholar (1985-88), she is Professor of World Literature in English, a Professorial Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College, and Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson.  Elleke writes both fiction and non-fiction, cultural history and criticism.   Her best-selling short biography of Nelson Mandela (OUP VSI series) has been translated into Arabic, Thai and Portuguese (Brazil region). Elleke Boehmer’s main research and supervisory interests include anti-colonialism since 1870; life-writing and auto-biography; modernism, masculinity and empire; and the cross-overs between feminism and nationalism in colonial and postcolonial writing. She has a continuing concern with what it means to represent beauty and death, especially in postcolonial narrative and poetry.

Susan Carlile

Professor of English, California State University, Long Beach

Writing about London author Charlotte Lennox (1729/30-1804) who was born in Gibraltar, lived in the colonial forts of Albany and Schenectady, New York as a young teenager, and returned to London to publish eighteen works in a variety of genres over the course of her life. Her diverse background and independent spirit allowed her to launch a literary career that put her at the heart of many of the most important literary discussions of her day, including Shakespeare’s role as national hero and the development of the novel.

Geoffrey Channon

Professor Emeritus of History and Pro Vice-Chancellor University of West of England, Bristol

In the course, some years ago, of writing a collective biography of business leaders in Britain, I came across Richard Potter (1817-1892), the father of Beatrice Webb and the focus of my current work. In my biography of Potter I am looking not only at his remarkable business career but also his upbringing, family relationships (building on Barbara Cain’s Destined to be Wives – the Sisters of Beatrice Webb, OUP 1988) and personal networks. I am aware that Beatrice’s published family narrative provides a compelling, perhaps over-compelling backdrop to the study, which might unduly influence the direction of my own work.

Rachel Hewitt

Rachel’s research is concerned with Enlightenment and Romantic biography. Her first book, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey, charted the early life of Britain’s national mapping agency. Her current research (A Revolution of Feeling, forthcoming) concerns the emotional impact of the French Revolution on British political culture, seeking to plot a trajectory from revolutionary hope to disillusionment and disappointment, and positioning the 1790s in a longer history of emotion. She is one of the ten New Generation Thinkers selected by the BBC and AHRC to disseminate their research through radio and festivals.

Hermione Lee

President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Lee is well known as a writer, reviewer and broadcaster. She has reviewed widely, for the Times Literary SupplementEssays in CriticismReview of English StudiesThe London Review of BooksThe Observer,The GuardianThe Independent on SundayThe New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker, among others. From 1982 to 1986 she presented a book programme, Book Four, on British Television’s Channel Four. Her publications include a study of the novels of Virginia Woolf, a critical appreciation of the work ofElizabeth Bowen (extensively revised for Bowen’s 1999 centenary), a book on Philip Roth, a literary biography of Willa Cather, and many editions and introductions, of Bowen, Stevie Smith, Welty, Kipling, Wharton, Trollope, Woolf, Penelope Fitzgerald and others. Her biography of Virginia Woolf was published in Britain in 1996 and in the USA in 1997, by Knopf, to great acclaim.

Kate Kennedy

Kate Kennedy has held a Research Fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the English Faculty, Cambridge, and is the Weinrebe Research Fellow in Life-writing at Wolfson College, Oxford. She lectures in both music and English, and specialises in interdisciplinary biography.

Her biography Dweller in Shadows: Ivor Gurney, poet, composer will be published by Princeton University Press in 2017, and she is currently working on a triple biography of Rupert Brooke and composers FS Kelly and William Denis Browne, entitled The Fateful Voyage. She has published widely on British composers and writers in the early twentieth century, co-editing The Silent Morning: Culture and Memory after the Armistice (Manchester University Press, 2013), The First World War: Literature, Music, Memory (Routledge, 2011) and contributing numerous chapters for books and journal articles. She is the editor of Literary Britten, a compendium of scholarship on Benjamin Britten’s use of text. Both her biographies have been featured on BBC Radio 3, and she is a regular broadcaster and academic consultant to the BBC, directing the commemorations for the First World War and for International Women’s Day for Radio 3, among other projects.

She is particularly interested in developing biographical research as performance, her opera libretto Out of the Ruins was a Royal Opera House commission in 2014, and her dramatized recitals for singer, pianist and actor have been performed by Fiona Shaw, Alex Jennings, Simon Russell Beale and Simon Callow in Literary and Music Festivals across the UK, and commissioned by the Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre.

Robert O’Kell

Senior Scholar, Department of English, Film & Theatre, and Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba

My interest in Life Writing is focused on epistolary biography as it took the form of “The Life and Letters of . . . ” in the 19th century. This interest developed in the course of the research for my recent book, “Disraeli: The Romance of Politics” (2013), which made extensive use of the on-going edition of the “Benjamin Disraeli Letters.” My current project, a study of political rhetoric in the Victorian period, also involves both private and public correspondence.

Zoe Parker

I’m an educationalist, action researcher and then narrative researcher by background and recently re-conceived my own life writing as creative writing. I am working with a close and long established friend, Jane Ackroyd, who is a sculptor and fine artist on a collaborative auto/biography. We have used text, images, installations and performance originally to celebrate our friendship, then to shape our identities and understand the life course, and along the way to recover memories of loved ones who have died. The work has been fascinating but very challenging as it’s so personal and emotional. There’s a creative tension between our different approaches as I tend to be more verbal and Jane more intuitive. I’m a member of the auto/biography Study Group which is affiliated to the British Sociological Association and this is where we’ve presented our work. My original degree was in English literature and psychology so it has been interesting to have an audience largely composed of sociologists. I am very interested in what distinguishes each of us from others as we create acceptable versions of ourselves and what we all tend to have in common.


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