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Life Writing and/as Empathy: A Symposium on Narrative Emotions
15-17 October 2015, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra (Spain)

This symposium focuses on the articulation or creation of empathy in life writing, in the context of theories of emotions and emotional cultures. We envision the symposium as an interdisciplinary conversation based on a variety of life writing texts, including memoir, diaries, letters, film and documentaries, and online media. Topics may include, but are not limited to: the creation of empathy within specific life writing genres, reader reception and empathy, the aesthetics of empathy, teaching empathy through life writing, visualizing empathetic processes, memoir and theory of mind, empathy and social identities (ethnicity, disability, gender and class), memory and empathy, the ethics of empathy, the rhetorics of empathy, representations of emotions attendant to empathy, and actional and aesthetic empathy, among others.
Plenary speakers: Professor Suzanne Keen, Washington and Lee University; Professor Irene Kacandes, Dartmouth College; Professor Arthur Frank, University of Alberta.
Information: Prof. Rocio G. Davis at

Silence in the Archives: Censorship and Suppression in Women's Life Writing in the Long Nineteenth Century
7 November 2015, Wolfson College, University of Oxford (UK)

Scholars increasingly look to women’s own life writing in the nineteenth century as a way of reconstructing both their lived experiences and their inner lives. While diaries, journals, letters, and memoirs offer a window into the past, paradoxically it is often the absences in the archives that provide the most insight into women’s lives in the period. Torn out pages and scratched out sentences are simultaneously frustrating and intriguing for scholars, offering hints and clues to the unspeakable and the unacceptable. Women’s life writing from the nineteenth century is thus intrinsically tied up with censorship: both by the self and others. Some beliefs, thoughts and ideas may have been too inflammatory to commit to paper in the first place – representative of inadmissible ambitions or transgressive desires. Some women later destroyed their papers, belatedly conforming to constraints of gender, class and propriety. Others were edited by family members, erasing evidence contrary to a public persona or prevalent norms.
This conference will bring together researchers from across a range of disciplines in the humanities to explore the extent and the significance of omissions in women’s life writing, and question what silences in the archives can tell us about what it meant to be a woman in the nineteenth century.
The conveners welcome 20-minute papers on topics including, but not limited to:
- Motives, practices and implications of censored life writing
- Self-censorship or destruction by women of their own papers
- Gender and sexuality encoded in private writing
- Adaptations of private correspondence, collaborative documents and political writing
- Acts of posthumous suppression or revision by families or literary executors
- Resurfacing or rediscovery of previously lost or unknown life writing
- Interpretation of archival silence in the age of the digital archive
- Research strategies for approaching, reading and interpreting gaps in life writing
300-word proposals, along with a short biography, should be sent to Lyndsey Jenkins and Alexis Wolf at by 5th June 2015.

The Failed Individual
November 12-14, 2015, University of Mannheim (Germany)

“If there is one thing in this world that I hate, it’s losers. I despise them,” then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared to a group of high school students, expressing a firm belief in success and failure as the results of individual action and ambition. Himself embodying the American Dream as an immigrant who ‘made it big in America,’ Schwarzenegger demeaned the worth of individuals he perceived to be ‘losers,’ and thus echoed an attitude prevalent in contemporary Western neoliberal politics that glorifies ‘success,’ i.e. striving for the good life, as the only valuable way of being in the world and as the ultimate goal of one’s existence. Those who fail, the cultural myth goes, lack the determination and the will to work harder, run faster, and jump higher than those who succeed. This crude simplification of success and failure veils the fact that ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ do not merely depend on individual action or choice, but are actually enabled by an intricate web of power dynamics and regulatory regimes. As J. Jack Halberstam reminds us, for most people “recognizing that … success is the outcome of the tilted scales of race, class, and gender” (Queer Art of Failure 3) is much harder to do than giving into the “mass delusion” that success is a matter of attitude and that there really is no good excuse for an individual to fail (Ehrenreich, Brightsighted 13). Scrutinizing the many ways in which individuals fail economically, politically, socially, physically, or culturally provides revealing insights into the power of hegemonic discourses and the pressure to meet normative ideals, the various human and non-human actors involved in what we usually consider ‘human failure’, but also into the productive potential and the pleasures failure has to offer.
At this conference, we will explore the failed individual in as many facets as possible. Instead of approaching failure as something solely humiliating and undesirable, we want to focus also on the rewards failing can offer and on its transformative potential by investigating the spaces of resistance, anarchy, and chaos failure occupies and opens up. The inability of queers to conform to normative patterns of desire and reproduction, or the failure of crips to meet the standards of physical productivity, fundamentally challenges teleological, future-oriented conceptions of ‘success’. Similarly, the negative effects associated with failure—disappointment, pain, disillusionment, anxiety, despair—may form a productive counter-discourse to the ideology of positivity rampant in neoliberal societies. However, we also want to pay due attention to the systems, structures, and media dispositifs that foster and frame an individual’s success and that set up an individual’s failure in the first place. If, in capitalist societies, someone’s success depends on someone else’s failure, it seems all too necessary to ask how the failed individual is framed, disqualified, and punished for the sake of maintaining order and cultural legibility. Moreover, in the face of an increasing technologization of life and a neoliberal global economy resulting in variants of labor exploitation and precariousness in both the West and the Global South, we want to investigate, in the vein of posthumanism, under which circumstances human agency can be regarded as a force that can be explained in terms of an autonomous and rational concept of subjectivity. Do we have to rethink notions of responsibility and accountability if the human subject is only one node in a complex network of economic, political, cultural, and historical influences? How does a new media environment dependent on corporate algorithms and promoting digital self-tracking affect the way we think about personal growth and failure? In what ways is the life of the failed individual particularly endangered, precarious, and vulnerable? What is the significance of master narratives and cultural myths like the American Dream in the dialectic of success and failure? In what ways does U.S. political culture’s focus on individualism veil the structures at work that act as stepping stones for some and as ‘glass ceilings’ for others? Which role does the disciplining of the body and the regulation of sexuality, gender, and desire play in the production of the failed individual?
We invite scholars to submit a short abstract (300-500 words) and a short CV to by 1 March, 2015. The workshop is not limited to a specific discipline or field of study, but it will be particularly useful for scholars with a background in American Studies, Media Studies, and Cultural Studies. Travel subsidies will be available to PhD students unable to procure funding from their own institution.
Contributions could, among other things, engage the following issues:
· The nexus of capitalism, neoliberalism, productivity and failure
· Failure in relation to the body
· Posthumanist perspectives on failed subjectivity, agency, and knowledge
· The effects of new media on self-knowledge, autonomy, and ‘self-optimization’
· Intersectionalities and strategies of ‘othering’ (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, etc.)
· Biopolitics and biopower
· Failed figures (drug addicts, prostitutes, the unemployed, the homeless, etc.) in literature, culture, media discourses and history
· Failure as a result of the choice not to participate in exploitative structures
· Ethics, violence, and the precariousness of life
· Cultural myths and narratives of positivity
· Failure as punishment for sinning in punitive theologies

English-Persian dictionary of life-writing

Dear colleague/ researcher, I should like to seek your academic help and cooperation for a research project, that is, compiling and developing the first English-Persian dictionary of life-writing terms. For this purpose, I have already checked a number of sources, among them, D. J. Winslow,
Life-Writing: A Glossary of Terms in Biography, Autobiography, and
Related Forms (2nd ed., 1995); M. Jolly, ed., Encyclopedia of
Life-Writing (2 vols., 2001); and N. Hamilton, How to Do Biography
(2008). I appreciate your help if you could provide me with more
research literature and glossaries and/or dictionaries in English.
I will be grateful for your academic assistance and cooperation.
Best wishes, Dr. M-R Fakhr-Rohani,Iran. Contact:

CfP: Great Biographers - The Great Historical Figures in Art and Literature
Deadline: December 31, 2015

Considering biography as a genre demanding to be further studied in its own right, this issue of the journal Figures Historiques will gather articles on remarkable biographers, who may be called “great” in the sense that their works constitute landmarks, or at least significant advancements in the history of biography. To steer clear of a timeworn debate, these papers will not pretend to decide whether biography belongs to literature or to history, or if it pertains to some other field of the humanities. They will simply consider biography per se, as a form of writing that has taken many different forms, but which does have a history as such, from the classic to the modern. In one sense, the very concept of “great biographers” points to that of a canon of biography, to which some obvious figures like Plutarch or Boswell, among many others, have an indisputable title to belong. A journal number on “Great Biographers” (necessarily without the article) can obviously not pretend to propose a Pantheon, but it could profitably concentrate on select examples of figures who stand out for the originality of their contributions to biography. These could also include, for instance, remarkable editors of biographical dictionaries, or filmmakers who have proposed innovative instances of biopic, or even “factographers” who have dared undertake “biographies of objects”, etc. This collection of articles should ideally reflect the proteiform variegatedness of biographical writing, thus contributing to interrogate fruitfully the very definition of biography as an object of research. In order to avoid any dispersion of purpose, biography is understood here as distinct from autobiography, which to all intents and purposes seems to go by very different generic principles.
The articles will be written either in English or in French. Abstracts, no longer than 500 words, should be sent before 31 December 2015 to Pr Joanny Moulin (LERMA EA 853, Aix-Marseille University) & Pr. Hans Renders (Biography Institute, University of Groningen)

IABA 2016 Conference: Excavating Lives
May 26-29, 2016, University of Cyprus

The tenth IABA World conference, "Excavating Lives," will be held at the University of Cyprus. The conference organisers welcome proposals on any topic related to discovery and the absent, hidden or veiled life. In what ways do life writers unearth the past? How are lives layered, erased, replaced, and/or preserved? And how has life writing changed over time, creating possibilities for new definitions?
In Nicosia, the only divided capital in the world, and on an island with a cultural landscape marked by numerous open as well as unexcavated archaeological sites, we consider life writing within the context of liminal spaces, borders, and hidden places.
Join us in Cyprus as we consider lives in an archaeological context, across political, cultural, and social divides, on an island whose rich history has been shaped by conflict and resolution, trauma and healing, forgetting and remembering.
We welcome abstracts from all fields across the humanities as well as papers and presentations from creative writers / arts practitioners.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent as email attachments to by October 10, 2015. Decisions will be made by October 31, 2015.
Paper topics can include, but are not limited to:
Life as palimpsest
Life writing as discovery
(Dis)closure and revelation
Recording lives - biography and memoir
Exposure - life writing and human rights
Visibility/invisibility in digital lives
Life writing and borders
Life writing and absences/appearances
Life writing and multimediated lives
Memory and crisis
Personal and public memory
Narrative and truth
The space between fiction and nonfiction
Truth as exposure
History's inaccuracies/anxieties
The importance of life writing in ecology and pedagogy
Conference organisers: Stephanos Stephanides, University of Cyprus; Amy-Katerini Prodromou, University of Cyprus; Stavros Karayanni, European University of Cyprus; Polina Mackay, University of Nicosia.

Making Individual Memory Visible in the Public Space. Third ISA Forum
10-14 July 2016, Vienna (Austria)

Both traditional historical and classical memory narratives were greatly determined by the recollection of the figure of the hero. National identities were built around the heroic deeds of the great man who then served as historical, social and cultural models for the particular society. Within this process of inscribing the exemplarity of heroes into collective memory the public space (through its statues, street names, memorial plaques and other memorial signs) typically played an essential role. What happens, however, when the everyday man takes over the urban space?
Both social history and qualitative sociology (especially biographical research) “discovered” the everyday men behind macro historical events: these trends cannot imagine the understanding of society without the understanding of the experiences of the individual.
The proposed session intends to elaborate the relationship of individual memories and the urban space in the format of a regular session, focusing on the following questions: How does the biography of everyday man become articulated in the urban space and how does others’ biographical presentation affect its own? How do urban experiences and public representations become part of the narration of the individual’s life story? How do memories of the everyday man increasingly flood the public space (see examples commemorating everyday man such as the Stolpersteine project) and how does the individual challenge particular memorials (see vandalization of statues)? How do collective and individual processes of remembering mutually shape each other in and through the urban space?

Abstract Submission: 14 April 2015 - 30 September 2015 24:00 GMT
Anyone interested in presenting a paper should submit an abstract on-line to the session on the following link:

Seminar Biography at 13th ESSE Conference
22-26 August 2016, Galway, Ireland
Deadline proposals: February 28, 2016

Biographical Studies are emerging as a field of research in the humanities, at a crossroads between several disciplines. This seminar would welcome contributions to the study of biography as a genre, considering that it raises specific issues that distinguish it from autobiography. It would equally be interested in approaches to the practice of biography as a method of academic research, from microhistory to literature and cultural studies. For instance, individual papers may address theoretical questions, case studies of particular biographers’ works, the history and the poetics of biography, the impact of the biographical turn, the evolution of biographical dictionaries, or the innovative influences of the biopic and digital humanities.
Paper proposals should be addressed to the conveners:
Pr Joanny Moulin, Aix-Marseille University,
Pr Hans Renders, University of Groningen,