CFP: Political Biographies in Literature and Cinema

Political Biographies
in
Literature and Cinema

Abstracts due: April 15, 2017

Biographers have a strong impact on our perception of history. They offer narratives of the lives of political leaders that necessarily defend a thesis of one sort or another, whether they pretend to strive to comprehend how politicians’ individual characters have underpinned their political responses to particular crises, or present an overtly biased portrait of historical figures. Biography scholars Hans Renders and Binne de Haan contend that biography designates “the study of the life of an individual, based on the methods of historical scholarship, with the goal of illuminating what is public, explained and interpreted in part from the perspective of the personal” (Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing, 2). Since the early nineteenth century, journalists have often played the role of political biographers. In the US, for example, reporters writing about figures such as Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln presented themselves as “champions and guardians of American character ideal, attending to the virtues, vices and ‘flaws’ of their subjects” (Shawn J. Parry-Giles, Hillary Clinton in the News, 4). Journalistic reporting has influenced political biography by spotlighting the incongruous gossip that sells newspapers, endowing the media with the power to shape a politician’s public image through calling attention to eye-catching images and sound bite pieces that simplify the political debate into visual clichés and stereotypical phrases. Contributors may question how the individual careers of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Narendra Modi conform to conventional models or translate into a new type of political biography.

This issue of Biography aims to further reflection on the evolution of political biography in a media-saturated context, turning political figures (present and past) into celebrities. It has also become a custom for statesmen to write their own autobiography—and more often in fact to have these ghost-written as first-person biographies of sorts (see Roman Polanski’s 2010 film The Ghost Writer)—during, before, and after their terms of office, thus incorporating their personal path into their political career and vice versa. It is our purpose to question the political content of these literary endeavours undertaken by Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama, etc., to consider how the politicians’ written and oral words have seeped into other media. An increasing number of politicians have written political biographies, and used this genre to ponder their political choices; Labour backbencher Roy Jenkins’s biography of Churchill is a case in point.

Biographical films (whether fiction or nonfiction) have influenced the generic evolution of biography through promoting a “tabloid culture” that feeds on the private lives of public figures. Considering that political power relies on representation, including visual symbols and rhetorical devices, we aim to foster the analysis of politics and biography as two interweaving strands. Political biofilms should not be analysed as a source of entertainment that discards political analysis; they also build political discourses through specific biographical angles. Some films draw on the hagiographic tradition (e.g. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, 2012) whereas others question the relationship between power and the individual (e.g. Errol Morris’s The Fog of War). Biographical documentaries addressing political characters have much in common with the methods of scholarly research, which are also discernible under hybridized forms in various types of docudrama.

Contributors will be interested in bringing to light interferences between different sources, analyzing the construction of political discourses through various biographical channels. To what extent do biographies promote or question the biographee’s political values? What are the limitations of prevailing assumptions (popular and/or academic) about biography’s relationship with history? What models of the political subject do biographies of political figures presuppose, and with what consequences? Articles of general relevance, as well as specific case studies of print or film biographies, are welcome in this special number of Biography, An Interdisciplinary Quarterly on political biographies in literature and cinema.

Potential contributors are asked to submit abstracts of 250–500 words and an abbreviated CV (of all authors) by 15 April 2017 to joanny.moulin@gmail.com and delphine.letort@univ-lemans.fr. We will contact those authors from whom we wish to see full manuscripts by 15 May 2017, and will expect to see those full manuscripts by 1 December 2017.

These manuscripts should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes and bibliography) and should use MLA style, 8th edition. Please also include all authors’ affiliations, emails, and mail contact information in the submission. We welcome inquiries about prospective submissions.

Workshop: (Re-)Constructing Lives, June 1-3 2017

Workshop of the Biography Society

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

 

Conveners:

Pr Joanny Moulin, Aix Marseille Université
Dr Jean-Charles Perquin, Université Lumière Lyon 2

Workshop description:

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.

List of contributors:

  1. James Atlas – New York Institute for the Humanities (USA)
  2. Alice Braun – Université Paris Ouest Nanterre (France)
  3. Antoine Capet – Université de Rouen (France)
  4. Patrick di Mascio – Aix-Marseille Université (France)
  5. Natalie Dykstra – Hope College, Holland, Michigan (USA)
  6. Olivier Frayssé – Université Paris IV- Sorbonne (France)
  7. Catherine Heyrendt – Université Reims-Champagne-Ardennes (France)
  8. Marco Mongelli – Univ. of Bologna & Paris IV Sorbonne (Italy & France)
  9. Joanny Moulin – Aix Marseille Université (France)
  10. Valeria Mosca – University of Genoa (Italy)
  11. Isabelle Pariente-Butterlin – Aix-Marseille Université (France)
  12. Jean-Charles Perquin – Université Lumière Lyon 2 (France)
  13. Aquarini Priyatna – Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung, (Indonesia)
  14. Jean Raimond – Université de Reims Champagne-Ardennes (France)
  15. Hans Renders – University of Groningen (The Netherlands)
  16. Marleen Rensen – University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
  17. Page Richards – University of Hong Kong (China)
  18. Alexandre Tremblay – Aix-Marseille Université – (France)

 

 

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, joanny.moulin@univ-amu.fr.

 

congres2017.saesfrance.org

“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).

Contents:
  • 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
    Varia:
    • 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.

"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.