Biography Society Seminar: “Transnational Biography in Europe”, Brno, 29 Aug.-2 Sept. 18

 

TRANSNATIONAL BIOGRAPHY IN EUROPE
SEMINAR S57

14th ESSE Conference
Brno 2018
29 August – 2 September 2018

In the nineteenth century especially, biography has played an important literary and cultural part in the building of the national identities of the European nation states. Today, on the contrary, there is a discernible interest in biographies of figures of international significance – artists, scientists, politicians, etc. Such transnational biographies can be lives of historical personages belonging to linguistic and cultural areas different from the biographers’ and the readers’, or simply biographies highlighting the transnational connections and interactions of a person. This seminar, backed by the Biography Society network, would focus more particularly on biographies that forge and foreground transnational communities, which may be cosmopolitan, humanist, linguistic, religious, political, etc. Among related issues, this poses the question of the translatability of biography, not so much in terms of language as of cultural transference, for an individual’s life is bound to be written differently, depending on its reading community. The readability of a biography beyond the linguistic and cultural community in which it was originally written and published depends very much on the transnational relevance of the person whose life it relates. Some biographies focus on particular go-between figures whose lives are remarkable for the linkage they establish and cultivate between different national agents of cultural transference. Others present the lives of personages of universal relevance. There seems to be a “world biography” category of the genre, in the sense of Auerbach’s Weltliteratur, which poses the question of the place and impact of biography in global studies. It is debatable whether transnational biographies can perceptibly contribute to building a sense of cultural belonging to one region of the world, like the European Community for instance, or whether today this has become an epiphenomenon of cultural globalization. This seminar on transnational biographies would welcome proposals for contributions offering general reflections on this topic, as well as related case studies. The longer versions of the papers will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal with the permission of the authors. The presentations will be limited to 20 minutes including discussion. Abstracts no longer than 200 words should be sent before 31 January 2018 to conference@biographysociety.org.

 

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