CFP :  (Re) Constructing Lives

Annual Conference of the SAES
Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne
1-3 June 2017

Workshop of the Biography Society

Do biographies necessarily impose on lives an artificial pattern? Is not a life already a construction, quite apart from any attempt to write about it? If, on the one hand, biography may serve the ideological purpose of ceaselessly constructing and reconstructing idealized lives of iconic historical figures, on the other hand, it may just as well work the other way around. If biography can serve the purposes of myth-making, modern biography is more often than not an investigation, de-constructing the lives of historical personages to re-construct them on a more true-to-life basis. For instance, in a distant past, James Anthony Froude’s Life of Carlyle scandalized his contemporaries by knocking the great man off his pedestal, paving the way for Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, and much more recently the biographies of C. G. Jung by Richard Noll and Ronald Hayman, reconstructing the life of the Swiss psychologist in a very iconoclastic light, or again Pierre Péan’s François Mitterand, Un jeunesse française, unearthing once more the socialist leader’s commitment with the Vichy government.

This workshop will particularly welcome contributions looking at the positioning of biographies relatively to this ideological notion of “construction”. Other papers may concentrate rather on the biographers’ narrative discourse as a process of re-constructing those parts or sides of their subjects’ lives that have been erased out of historical document, whether intentionally or accidentally—a limit case in this respect is Ivan Jablonka’s Laetitia, and the use of ‘fictions de méthode’ to investigate the gaps. Another direction worth exploring would be the way in which, biographical information about an author/an artist may drastically inflect the reception of his/her work.

Submission: Please send a (provisional) title before 20 January 2017, and an abstract of no more that 200 words before 1st March to Joanny Moulin,

“Based upon a Life”: The Biopic Genre in Question

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vol. XIV-n°2 | 2016

“Based upon a Life”: The Biopic Genre in Question

« Inspiré d’une vie » : le genre biopic en question

Edited by Delphine Letort and Taïna Tuhkunen.


While George F. Custen defines a biopic (biographical film) as a depiction of “the life of a historical person, past or present” (Bio/Pics, How Hollywood Constructed Public History, 1992, 5), he also considers the impact of celebrities and stars as “key historical figures” whose public persona may interfere with the genre’s historical discourse. More recently, Ellen Cheshire has asked if this “maligned and misunderstood genre” is, in reality, a genre of its own (Bio-Pics: A Life in Pictures, 2015, 3). Biopics have indeed sparked off a number of on-going debates, not merely due to their claims of veracity, but through their practice of gender politics, intertextuality, reflexivity, and their hagiographic roots capable of impacting the narrative modes, visual and discursive strategies perpetuated by contemporary “life stories” on screen. This issue of Revue LISA/LISA e-journal explores the various mechanisms, conventions and patterns underlying the construction of “exceptional destinies” on screen (cinema/television).

  • Delphine Letort and Taïna Tuhkunen
    « Inspiré d’une vie » : le genre biopic en question
    “Based upon a Life”: The Biopic Genre in Question
  • Joanny Moulin
    Biophoty: The Biofilm in Biography Theory
    La biophotie : le biofilm dans la théorie de la biographie
  • Rémi Fontanel
    Le biopic du sportif américain
    American Sports Biopics
  • Delphine Letort
    Flirting with Controversy: Making Biopics about Truman Capote
    Flirter avec la controverse : les biopics sur Truman Capote
  • Jules Sandeau
    Katharine Hepburn en reine de cœur : Mary of Scotland (John Ford, 1936)
    Katharine Hepburn as Queen of Hearts: Mary of Scotland (John Ford, 1936)
  • Claire Demoulin
    Les biopics d’hommes politiques : des « films de discours » ? Croisements esthétiques, rhétoriques et politiques autour du film Le Discours d’un roi
    Political Biopics as Films of Speeches: aesthetic, rhetorical and political discussions around The King’s Speech
  • Hélène Charlery
    HBO’s Black Women Artist Biopics: The Josephine Baker Story and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
    Les biopics de HBO sur les artistes noires américaines : The Josephine Baker Story et Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
  • Nicole Cloarec
    The Secret Life of Secret Agents: Alan Bennett and John Schlesinger’s An Englishman Abroad (1983) and A Question of Attribution (1991)
    La vie secrète des agents doubles : An Englishman Abroad (1983) et A Question of Attribution (1991) d’Alan Bennett et John Schlesinger
    • Olivier Richomme
      La fin de la diversité ? Démantèlement jurisprudentiel du Voting Rights Act aux États-Unis
      The End of Diversity? Jurisprudential Deconstruction of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the US
Revue LISA / LISA e-journal is a bilingual peer-reviewed international on-line publication. LISA welcomes researchers from France and abroad ‎who are interested in pluri-, trans- or inter- disciplinary studies in fields including cultural ‎studies, literature, philosophy or the history of ideas, the visual arts, music, media studies, ‎sociology, history and anthropology within the English-speaking world although comparative ‎studies with other geographical areas will also be considered.

Prochaines séances du SEMINAIRE “BIOGRAPHIE” 14 et 15 décembre 2016

Conférence du Séminaire Biographie

Jeudi 15 décembre à 17h – Maison de la Recherche – salle 2.44

Taïna Tuhkunen

Professeur des universités en études américaines à l’Université d’Angers

« Inspiré d’une vie » : le genre biopic en question

Définissant le biopic (film biographique/biographie filmée) comme la représentation de « la vie d’un personnage historique, passé ou présent », George F. Custen fait le constat que les stars et les célébrités sont également des « figures historiques emblématiques » dont l’image publique peut interférer avec le discours historique véhiculé par ces films (Bio/Pics, How Hollywood Constructed Public History, 1992, 5). Plus récemment, Ellen Cheshire a demandé si ce genre « calomnié et incompris » constitue un genre à part (Bio-Pics: A Life in Pictures, 2015, 3). Le biopic est, en effet, à l’origine de nombreuses controverses, non seulement en raison de sa prétention à la véracité historique, mais par sa praxis de l’intertextualité et de la réflexivité, ses dichotomies sexuelles, ou bien son attachement, encore aujourd’hui, à la tradition hagiographique susceptible d’affecter les stratégies visuelles et narratives des récits de vie filmiques. Ce numéro de la Revue LISA/LISA e-journal explore les divers mécanismes, modalités et conventions sur lesquels s’appuie la construction des « destins exceptionnels » à l’écran (cinéma/télévision).

Notez la publication dans

XIV-n°2 | 2016“Based upon a Life”: The Biopic Genre in Question

Conférence du Séminaire Biographie

Mercredi 14 décembre à 17h – Maison de la Recherche – salle 2.44

Tobias Heinrich

Austrian Lektor in German literature and language at New College, University of Oxford

Exemplary lives ­ Why we read biographies and what German Enlightenment has to say about it

Biographies are and have been since the eighteenth century one of the most popular genres on the book market: whether it be Plutarch’s lives of Alexander and Caesar, Hermione Lee’s award­winning biography of Virgina Woolf or Walter Isaacson’s best­selling book on Steve Jobs. This talk is going to examine the reasons for our ongoing fascination with biographies. In this respect, it will look at the German Enlightenment and the advocates of biography as the key genre of a hermeneutic worldview. The thoroughly modern assumption that man can be readable like a book is merged with older models of edification and spiritual formation through literature, resulting in the notion that we can acquire authority over our own biography only through the lens of the lives of others.

Carla Kaplan: King’s College Lecture ‘Something to Offend Everyone’: The Muckraking Life of Jessica Mitford.

Save the date:  Carla Kaplan will be giving the following lecture at the Centre for Life-Writing Research – King’s College, London on Friday 4th November 2016.



Carla Kaplan presents

‘Something to Offend Everyone’: The Muckraking Life of Jessica Mitford.

'Something to Offend Everyone'
4 November 2016 (18:30-20:00)
Anatomy Lecture Theatre (K.6.29)
Strand Campus

Hans Renders on Life-Writing: Interview for Journal of Life-Writing Studies – Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Journal of Life-Writing Studies – Shanghai Jiao Tong University, No.6, Spring 2016.


“Hans Renders presents a new look in the area of Life Writing Studies in China. In the Chinese academia, there have been few scholarships on European life studies; there have been unproportionate historians among the practitioners, a body that is built up mostly by literary scholars. For both reasons Professor Hans Renders’s view on biography and the development of life writing studies in Holland is valuable to the Chinese scholars. Our email interview with Hans Renders took place in October, 2015…”

View full article (redirecting to Biography Institute’s website):


Hans Renders is Professor in History and Theory of biography and is Director of the Biography Institute, both at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He was a member of the founding committee of Biographers International Organization (bio). He wrote two biographies, about the Dutch poet Jan Hanlo (1998) and the Dutch journalist and author Jan Campert (2004). He is editor of the Biographical Studies series and the editor in chief of a series of edited reprints of Dutch and foreign biographies. He has published studies on the theme of biography in various international journals, among them Journal of Historical Biography, Le Temps des Medias and Storia della Storiografia, and is a member of the board of Quaerendo, a journal devoted to manuscripts and printed books. He published with Binne de Haan the edited volume Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing (2014). He is co-founder and Vice-president of the Société de Biographie/Biography Society, and a member of the jury for the American biography prize, the Plutarch Award (source: Journal of Life-Writing Studies).

"Biography Theory & Practice" is the blog of a research network in biographical studies<hr />"Biography Theory & Practice" est le carnet d'un réseau de recherche en études biographiques.