Sunday, May 07, 2006

Writing Lives in Early Modern England

Writing Lives in Early Modern England
A Conference at Queen Mary, University of London, July 13th to 15th 2006

"The writing a life is at all times, and in all circumstances, the most difficult task of an historian: and, notwithstanding the numerous tribe of biographers, we can scarce find one, except Plutarch, who deserves our perusal, or can invite a second view" - Dryden, The Life of Lucian (1696)

Biographies fill the review columns of the Sunday newspapers and they remain a familiar scholarly genre. Yet the term biography itself is a late seventeenth-century coinage that signals a turn in the understanding of life and character, an attitude that more approximates the Enlightenment than early modernity, and one that continues to shape the writing of lives. We aim, in this conference, to ask if the Enlightenment biographical project marks a departure from the experience and writing of early modern lives, perhaps even threatening to occlude an early modern sense of the constructions and the fashioning, the contingencies, anxieties, and uncertainties of the self.

'Writing Lives in Early Modern England' seeks to recapture early modern lives as written, perceived and experienced, and to open for discussion all such pre-modern forms of life writing as history, moral inscription, exemplum, performance, story and text.

Speakers will include:

Julia Marciari Alexander, Yale Center for British Art, Painting a Life: The case of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland
Alastair Bellany, Rutgers University, 'Naught but Illusion'? Buckingham's Painted Selves
Thomas Corns, University of Wales Bangor, The early biographies of John Milton
Andrew Hadfield, Sussex University, Public and Private Spenser in Print
Frances Harris, British Library, Men, Women, Religion and the Meaning of Lives: Sir Robert Moray and his Networks
Lisa Jardine, Queen Mary, University of London, An Irregular Life: Not a Biography of Sir Constantijn Huygens
Paulina Kewes, Jesus College Oxford, Two Queens, One Inventory
Peter Lake, Princeton University, Confessions and Lives
Leah Marcus, Vanderbilt University, Elizabeth I: Beyond Martyrology
Michael McKeon, Rutgers University, Biography into Fiction
Steven Pincus, Yale University, Ralph Thoreby and Urban Biography
Kevin Sharpe, Queen Mary, University of London, Writing Royal Lives and the Case of James II
Andrea Walkden, Yale University, The Anglican Plutarch: Izaak Walton and his Lives
Steven N. Zwicker, Washington University, Dryden and Antiquity: The Meaning of Ancient Lives
Dr Stella Tillyard will give an opening talk on Writing Lives. Annabel Patterson will give closing comments.

For details, contact Alistair Daniel:


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