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HRC Colloquium - Biographical Turns

Biographical Turns across the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

The HRC is organising a workshop on Wednesday 17th May 2023 on the theme of ‘Biographical Turns’. We invite colleagues from the full range of departments and research centres in the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences to express interest in presenting a paper at this event. The volume The Biographical Turn: Lives in History (2016), edited by Hans Renders, Binne de Haan, and Jonne Harmsma, focused upon biography as a research methodology, and our workshop is intended to cultivate the exchange of ideas across the disciplines about biography, within a framework that seeks to investigate the range of possible approaches and materials. We shall explore the role of individuals as agents, and the question of how creative individuality is mediated and sustained – across authors, artists, and producers and directors of literature, art, cinema and television; it may indeed also present an opportunity to revisit the extent to which Roland Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’ of 1968 remains ‘good to think with’.

Meanwhile, recent events saw the flourishing of reflections on the impact made by a single individual – Queen Elizabeth II – in shaping a new ‘Elizabethan age’. Our aim, by contrast, is also to refocus attention away from the public figures who are commonly the focus of biographical studies, in order to consider how the lives of marginalised individuals can help to ensure diversity of perspective. To what extent can individuals shape the culture and society they live in? And on what terms? In short: how relevant are the lives of individuals to different disciplines? The discussion can also be extended to thinking about objects, following on from the work of scholars like Igor Kopytoff (‘The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process’ in Arjun Appadurai’s edited volume, The Social Life of Things, 1986); and, by extension, links with ecopoetics and ecocriticism might suggest themselves.

We welcome expressions of interest from colleagues who would like to participate in this workshop. We would like to create a dialogue between early career postdocs, mid-career, or senior scholars across the Faculties, particularly (but not exclusively) from Classics and Ancient History, English and Comparative Literary Studies, History, Film and TV, History of Art, School of Modern Languages and Culture, Philosophy, Politics, and Sociology. Ideally, papers should focus on methodologies and approaches as illustrated in a particular case study, so that we can explore the limits of thinking about biographical turns as they relate to specific disciplines, opening up conversations between colleagues with different disciplinary expertise.

Please contact Alison Cooley (Director of the HRC) – a.cooley@warwick.ac.uk by Friday 9th December to express interest in 1) presenting a paper 2) chairing a session 3) attending the event. Spaces will be limited to 35 participants, in order to allow for plenty of discussion.