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.

News
Events

The latest from Wolfson College

23 October 2017
Imagining the Divine: Exhibition

Wolfson scholars collaborate on a unique exhibition on the art of major world religions at the Ashmolean Museum.

23 October 2017
The College Record 2017

The Wolfson College Record is a formal account of the past year and includes the final President's Letter from Professor Dame Hermione Lee.

Philomen Probert
9 October 2017
Message from the Acting President

A warm welcome to those new to Wolfson, and a warm welcome back to those who have been travelling during the summer or hiding away in libraries or...

Our upcoming events

Concert and Plays
24 - 24
Oct Oct
Staging the Modernist Life: Auto/biography, performance, and H.D.
Tuesday 24 October -
1:30pm to 2:30pm

In this lecture/performance, Sasha Colby will discuss the process of transforming auto/biographical materials into biographical drama in her recent book project Staging Modernist Lives: H.D., Mina Loy, Nancy Cunard, Three Plays and Criticism (McGill-Queen's UP, 2017). With an emphasis on the poet, novelist, and memoirist H.D.

Networking
24 - 24
Oct Oct
Slanguages exhibition: launch party
Tuesday 24 October -
4:00pm to 7:00pm

Our Creative Multilingualism Languages in the Creative Economy exhibition will feature the work, archives and ephemera related to the work of three Birmingham-based artists who use different languages in their musical and artistic work.

Lectures and Seminars
25 - 25
Oct Oct
Tennyson, Celebrity and Portraiture
Wednesday 25 October -
5:30pm to 7:00pm

This lecture 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.