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EN960 Life-writing since 1900: History and Practice

Autumn Term, Thursdays 10.00-12.00 (Room H401)


Tutors: Jonathan Bate (Convenor), Paula Byrne, Jeremy Treglown



The module will roughly alternate literary-historical and practical sessions, all taught by practitioners.  The literary-historical aspect will be focused on an area of current research of interest to the teacher(s). 


  1. Introduction:  New Kinds of Lives from Bloomsbury to the C21 (JB/JT)  - extracts from Lytton Strachey, Richard Ellmann, Lyndall Gordon, Colm Tóibín [Xeroxes will be made available]
  1. Section A Bloomsbury:  

      Virginia Woolf: diaries, letters, two biographies (Quentin Bell and Hermione Lee) (JB)


  1. Introduction to Archives (Modern Records Centre)
  1. Archive-related workshop (JT)
  1. Clive Bell and Mary Hutchinson – the Unknown Famous Couple (JT) [Xeroxes will be made available]
  1. Project work
  1. Section B Work in Progress:

      Evelyn Waugh (PB)


  1. Lorca vs los humildes (JT) – Ian Gibson’s biography, JT’s Granta piece…
  1. Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (JB)
  1. Ted Hughes: the raw materials  (JB)    


Plus 1:1 meetings with students about their projects (JB, PB, JT)



Preliminary reading: 


Leon Edel, Bloomsbury: A House of Lions, 1979

Richard Ellmann, Golden Codgers: Biographical Speculations, 1973

Peter France and William St Clair, eds., Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography, 2002

Ian Gibson, The Assassination of Federico García Lorca, 1983 edn.

Lyndall Gordon, A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and his Art, 1998

Ian Hamilton, Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography, 1992

Selina Hastings, Evelyn Waugh: A Biography, 1994

Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, 1996

Ted Hughes, Letters, ed. Christopher Reid, 2007

Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf, 1996

Janet Malcolm, In the Freud Archives, 1984

                         The Silent Woman, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, 1994

Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, 2002 edn. intro. Paul Levy

Colm Tóibín, The Master, 2004