What is Life-Writing?

Life-writing involves, and goes beyond, biography. It encompasses everything from the complete life to the day-in-the-life, from the fictional to the factional.

It embraces the lives of objects and institutions as well as the lives of individuals, families and groups.

Life-writing includes autobiography, memoirs, letters, diaries, journals (written and documentary), anthropological data, oral testimony, and eye-witness accounts. It is not only a literary or historical specialism, but is relevant across the arts and sciences, and can involve philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, ethnographers and anthropologists.

Wolfson College provides a natural home for OCLW. The college prides itself on an interdiscplinary approach to research, whilst drawing on equally strong research traditions in humanities and science.

Recent areas of interest in life-writing studies include the relation of biography to scientific discovery. Life-writing is also an integral part of studies relating to the Holocaust, genocide, testimony and confession, and gender and apartheid. The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing also has an interest in 'the lives of objects’ and the relation of those objects to human lives. This subject, and the methodological questions that it raises, was the focus of OCLW’s inaugural conference in 2013.

In the future, the Centre will turn its attentions to a series of events (outside of the conference) dedicated to exploring the lives of objects; the relationship between (auto)biography and portraiture; and a number of writing workshops.

Watch this space for details of talks, workshops and conferences in these areas.

Now tell us your viewshow would you define life-writing? Which recent trends in the discipline particularly fascinate you? What would you like to see taking place in a Life-Writing Centre? In the near future, you will be able to participate in discussions regarding life-writing on our blog.

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Our upcoming events

Lectures and Seminars
21 - 21
May May
Asian Treasure Traditions Seminar
Tuesday 21 May - 3:00pm to 7:00pm

Anna Sehnalova Tuesday 21st May Seminar Room 3, 5.pm - 7pm, followed by dinner at Wolfson Title: Mountain Deities and Their Treasures: Possible Indigenous Origins of the Tibetan gTer ma tradition

Tuesday 21st May, Reinier Langelaar (IKGA, Austrian Academy of Sciences & Humboldt University of Berlin)

Wolfson College Seminar Room 3, 15:00 - 17:00

Lectures and Seminars
21 - 21
May May
Japan’s Energy Policy After The Fukushima Disaster
Tuesday 21 May - 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Eight years on from the disastrous accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, how has the clean-up operation gone; what are Japanese attitudes to nuclear power; and what energy mix is right for a resource-poor economic superpower? Naomi Hirose has for many years been at the helm of The Tokyo Electric Power Company which runs Fukushima, and he is in Oxford, at Wolfson College, to set out his views, and to take all questions.

Lectures and Seminars
23 - 23
May May
Wolfson Lecture Series: Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Expanding the diplomati...
Thursday 23 May - 6:15pm to 7:15pm

Sir Peter Gluckman will deliver the lecture “Expanding the diplomatic toolkit: the further evolution of science diplomacy”.