Category Archives: Call for Papers

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



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


Conveners :

Biography Society Seminar: Revolutionary Lives, 7-9 June18

Biography Society Seminar

Annual SAES Conference 2018
Université Paris Nanterre
7-9 juin 2018 : «
Revolution(s) »


(Faire défiler pour texte en français)


The word ‘life’ is constantly revolving around the axis of writing: a life is both a biography and its topic. In a sense, we write our lives as we live them. Lives that go on being written after the death of the subject, lives that are considered interesting enough to be written and read about are often closely related to a paradigmatic shift, a revolution of one sort or another. Whether the individuals are the indispensable agents of such revolutionary moments, or simply happened to be in the right place at the right moment, is a sensitive case in point. Furthermore, in the ‘structure’ of a human life – this dated word should be understood in the broadest possible sense of what Thomas Kuhn meant in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) – time is heterogeneous: there are ‘turning points’, or moments of higher intensity, which are interesting to study as such, as well as for their two-way impact on individual lives and their contexts, but also for their incidence on the composition of biographies. Under the influence of the cinema, some modern biographies focus on particularly significant moments or periods in the lives they relate. Such ‘partial’ biographies are one instance of formal innovation in a genre that is often criticized for its conventionality, yet there have been other revolutionary experiments in biography, as for example Ruth Scurr’s recent John Aubrey: My Own Life (2015), written out like a diary, in the first-person singular. This seminar would welcome contributions proposing theoretical reflections or case studies in history, literature and cinema, on one or the other of these three heads: how individual lives relate to historical or paradigmatic revolutions, the nature and impact of ‘turning points’ in human lives, or innovations in the evolution of biography as a genre. The article versions of the presentations will afterwards be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal with the permission of their authors. Proposals of no more than 200 words, in French or in English, with short biographical notes, should be sent before 15 January 2018 to Joanny Moulin and Patrick Di Mascio



Atelier de la Biography Society

Congrès annuel de la SAES 2018
à l’Université Paris Nanterre:
Revolution(s) »
7-9 juin 2018


Le mot « vie » tourne constamment autour de l’axe de l’écriture : une vie est tout à la fois une biographie et son objet. En un sens, nous écrivons nos vies en les vivant. Les vies qui continuent de s’écrire après la mort de leur sujet, les vies qui sont assez intéressantes pour qu’on désire les écrire ou les lire sont souvent étroitement liées à un changement paradigmatique, une révolution de quelque sorte. Que les individus soient les agents indispensables de tels moments révolutionnaires ou qu’ils se soient seulement trouvés au bon endroit au bon moment est une question sensible. Qui plus est, dans la « structure » d’une vie humaine — ce vocable daté s’entend ici au sens le plus large où Thomas Kuhn l’entendait dans La structure des révolutions scientifiques (1962, trad. 1992) — le temps est hétérogène : il y a des « tournants », des moments de haute intensité, qu’il est intéressant d’étudier en tant que tels, mais aussi pour leur impact à double sens sur le contexte les vies individuelles et leurs contextes, mais encore pour leur incidence sur la composition des biographies. Sous l’influence du cinéma, certaines biographies modernes se concentrent sur des moments ou périodes particulièrement significatifs dans les vies qu’elles relatent. De telles biographies « partielles » sont un exemple d’innovation formelle dans un genre souvent décrié pour son conformisme, mais il y eut d’autres expériences révolutionnaires en biographie, comme le récent ouvrage de Ruth Scurr, John Aubrey : My Own Life (2015), rédigé sous forme de journal intime, à la première personne du singulier. Ce séminaire accueillera volontiers des contributions proposant des réflexions théoriques ou des études de cas, portant un corpus littéraire, historique ou cinématographique, dans l’une ou l’autre de ces trois directions : comment les vies individuelles s’articulent à des révolutions historiques ou paradigmatiques, la nature et l’impact des « tournants » dans les vies humaines, ou les innovations dans l’évolution de la biographie comme genre. Les articles issus des présentations seront plus tard soumis pour publication dans une revue à comité de lecture avec la permission des auteurs. Les propositions de 200 mots tout au plus, accompagnées d’une brève notice biographique, sont à envoyer avant le 15 janvier 2018 à Joanny Moulin et Patrick Di Mascio


Featured image: Félix Philippoteaux: Lamartine devant l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris le 25 février 1848 refuse le drapeau rouge (Félix Philippoteaux: Lamartine in front of the Town Hall of Paris rejects the red flag on 25 February 1848)

Conference of the Biography Society: “Different Lives: Global Perspectives on Biography in Public Cultures and Societies” – September 19-21, 2018

Updated 16/11

Different Lives: Global Perspectives on Biography in Public Cultures & Societies

September 19-21, 2018



On 19-21 September, 2018, the Biography Institute of the University of Groningen will host a conference designed to take a look beyond our own borders and delve deeper into the question of how the art of biography is practiced in other parts of the world. Biographers from different continents will gather to examine the ways in which their foreign colleagues practice their craft and discuss the cultural perspectives that guide biographers in their approach to the infinite complexity of the other. Different Lives: Global Perspectives on Biography in Public Cultures and Societies will bring together biographers from France, Great Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, China, the United States, the Netherlands, and other nations, whose work reflect the global diversity of biographical practice. For the participants, it will provide an opportunity to learn about international research in the field.

In addition to Richard Holmes’ adage ‘biography as a handshake across time’, we would like to know how biography can contribute to a better understanding of differences between societies and cultures. How can biographers from different parts of the world learn from each other, without becoming all the same? For this purpose, we call on our speakers to inform us about the history and the state of the art concerning biography in their own countries. By doing so, speakers can show how in their cultural background biography functions as a public genre, featuring specific societal issues and opinion-making. Presumably, this could lead to a different thinking about the role of biography in society.

To contribute to the discussion about the national perspectives in biography, the following subjects thus can be explored:

  • Religion
  • Current topics in biography
  • Societal pioneers (‘untimely individuals’)
  • Censorship
  • Biographical criticism
  • Access to archives
  • Foreign biography in each country
  • The publishing world
  • Transnational similarities
  • Biography in public space

The conference is jointly organized by the Biography Institute and the Biography Society. Owing to these organizations’ expansive networks, a broad group of prominent researchers and biographers will be present. Richard Holmes will give the keynote lecture and Nigel Hamilton will host a masterclass on Biography.

Abstracts are due on December 20: 12:00, 2017 and must be submitted via

CFP: Political Biographies in Literature and Cinema

Political Biographies
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 and 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.

picture: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011)

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,