The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture (edited collection) - October 1st 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Tom Brown (University of Reading) & Belén Vidal (King's College, London)
contact email: 

EDITORS: Tom Brown (University of Reading) & Belén Vidal (King's College, London)

The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture

A genre that continues to be a staple of film industries around the world, the 'biopic' (or biographical picture) remains relatively under-examined and under-valued in contemporary film studies. While Hollywood biopics have received some sustained attention, this proposed collection will look at the 'life' of the biopic internationally.

The collection will be divided into three parts, each becoming more specific in its focus. The first part will comprise essays surveying the biopic's place within a range of industrial and cultural contexts, offering some historical overview but focusing primarily on contemporary production. Parts two and three will focus on particular aspects of the biopic through analysis of selected case studies.

The contributors to all sections, but particularly parts two and three, will be encouraged to investigate the aesthetic, ideological and/or theoretical implications of particular cycles, narratives and representations. We especially welcome proposals that engage imaginatively with the boundaries of the genre.

We intend that the three sections to the book will look roughly as follows:

American biopics from the post-classical period and from a range of European, Asian and other World cinemas.

Some informing frameworks might comprise: national contexts and international circulation; auteur, producer or star-driven product?; between film and television; the role of the biopic in cultural industries; hybrid formats (documentary footage, animation, docudrama).

Representations of certain types of figure: artists, writers, sportsmen, politicians and statesmen, journalists, musicians, inventors, film stars, terrorists, revolutionaries, etc.

Possible approaches: co-existence of fictional and historical figures; celebrity and popular culture; politics of gender, race and sexuality in relation to cycles (the woman writer, the gay icon, the national hero, etc.); recurring motifs, such as performance in the musician's biopic, the moment of creation, the artistic couple, the life of the artwork, labour and artistry, etc.

To include recurrent characters such as Christopher Columbus, Napoléon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, Vincent Van Gogh, Adolf Hitler, Ché Guevara, etc.

Approaches: hagiographic and revisionist biopics; life narratives versus reconstruction of an event; fictions of origins ('the early years of…'); 'exceptional individuals' versus social determinants; acting and impersonation.

The divisions between these sections and their areas of focus are necessarily fluid and the list of suggested critical frameworks is by no means exhaustive. We would also welcome proposals that suggest approaches beyond those listed above.

However, we would particularly welcome proposals in the following areas:

• Theorising performance in the biopic: embodying and incarnating 'real-life' figures.

• Entries for the 'Representations' section with a focus on approaches to figures or cycles - e.g. musicians, writers, etc.

• Post-1989 revisions of European national histories and their figures (on the political biopic; memory and World War II, the Cold War, etc.)

• Local/global address in world cinema biopics.

We envisage 1st of September 2011 as the final deadline for the submission of chapters.

Deadline for receipt of 300 words (max.) proposals and a brief bio (100 words max.): 1st October 2010

Please send your proposals and any enquiries to:

Tom Brown (University of Reading) and Belén Vidal (King's College London)