CFP: [International] Conference The Biographerâs Presence

full name / name of organization: 
Roger Kojecky
contact email: 
secretary@clsg.org

Christian Literary Studies Group (CLSG)
Call for papers
The Biographer’s Presence
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 8 November 2008
non-members welcome

Biography, autobiography, hagiography, prosopography, fictional
biography, bildungsroman, have always been more than they at first
appear. Biographers persuade us that lives may, by way of warning,
example or otherwise, convey more than a bare story. Group biographies
(Suetonius on the Twelve Caesars, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Anthony Wood’s
Athenae Oxonienses) seek to establish a pedigree, define an elite, or
construct a canon. As biographers shape their stories they have not only
their subject, but an audience in view.

‘The gospels are Christology in narrative form,’ suggests Richard
Burridge (Four Gospels One Jesus, 1994). Samuel Johnson, on completing
his Lives of the Poets in 1781 hoped that he had written ‘in such a
manner as may tend to the promotion of piety’. Ernest Renan considered it
a truism in 1881 that every nation needs its great men and its heroic
past.

Virginia Woolf, whose father Leslie Stephen, was the patriarch of the
Dictionary of National Biography, wrote (in ‘How Should One Read a
Book?’) a propos of literary lives: ‘we may pull out a play or a poem
that they have written and see whether it reads differently in the
presence of the author.’ Not long before her death in 1939 she accorded
biographers a prophetic role. They must ‘go ahead of the rest of us, like
the miner’s canary, testing the atmosphere, detecting falsity, unreality,
and the presence of false conventions.’ Jane Malcolm’s The Silent Woman
(1994) rewrites the received version of the Plath-Hughes story, and
refers to ‘the transgressive nature of biography’. And of course
postmodernism doubts ‘identity itself, and how texts construct it
narratively’ (Steven Weisenburger in John Keener, Biography and the
Postmodern Historical Novel, 2001).

Offers of papers with a reading length of 25 or 50 minutes are invited.
Preference will be given to those which focus on the Christian tradition.
Please send a short account (up to 300 words) by 18 April to Dr Roger
Kojecký: secretary_at_clsg.org stating which length. Contributors are asked
to submit their conference papers for subsequent publication in The
Glass. Details can be found on the CLSG website www.clsg.org

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Received on Sat Feb 09 2008 - 11:46:29 EST

cfp categories: 
international_conferences