Conference CfP: Writing Lives in Europe, 1500-1700

University College Dublin, 6th-8th September 2018

This conference on life writing/self writing will address questions related to life writing across Europe between 1500-1700, in particular the influence of different religious, social, cultural and national perspectives on the emergence of various forms of self-writing. We are particularly interested in relationships, connections, textual traffic and circulation across Europe through networks such as intellectual circles/coteries, religious orders, and the experience of exiled communities. Life writing has long historical roots, but such writings are arguably the first examples of demotic, vernacular writing in the period. ‘Life writing’ describes narratives that allow us to interrogate how far ideas of self were fashioned by and through various forms of written representation, and to examine the stylistic, generic and social parameters to the formation of identities. Life writings comprise new, hybrid and emerging forms over the period 1500-1700, developing from relatively ‘static’ modes such as saints lives, eulogies, encomia, into more dynamic forms like biography, autobiography, chronicle histories, prison writing, prophecy, sermons, diaries, elegies, monumental verse, and letters. The conference aims to provide a more nuanced account of the emergence, creation and reception of narratives of the self, focussing not just on content, but on narrative, generic and material frameworks that inflect the representation of the “self” according to variables such as gender, class, region, language and religion.

The key questions that we hope that contributors will address include:
1. How do we define “life writing” and what kinds of narratives, texts and artifacts might it include?
2. What are the critical differences between biographically based criticism and the investigation of self writing/narrativization of selves?
3. What are the specific conditions (historical, cultural, local, religious/confessional, familial) that enable the emergence of life writing over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? Why then?
4. How useful is standard periodisation for thinking about the emergence of these hybrid, complex forms from (mostly) domestic spaces?
5. How significant is it that women writers and subjects are so strongly represented in life writing, and what is at stake in these representations?
6. How might texts which are generically distinct from life writing be read through this framework, e.g. poems, romances, polemic etc?
7. What role does editing, transmission and circulation play in the construction and reception of life writing?
8. What light might comparative perspectives from other languages and cultures offer?

We welcome contributions from established and early career researchers, and encourage papers that address non-Anglophone writings, although papers will be delivered in English.

Papers (20 minutes) on the following topics are particularly welcome:
– memorialization
– exemplarity
– forms/modes/genres/language choices
– materiality/transmission
– privacy/publication
– historical contextualisation(s)
– authorship/collaboration
– community
– spirituality/religion/proselytising

Proposals (comprising a title, 200 word abstract, up to 5 keywords, and a 100 word bio) should be sent to: lifewriting@ucd.ie by Friday March 16th 2018.

Organisers: Prof. Danielle Clarke (School Of English, Drama & Film, UCD) and Prof. John McCafferty (School of History, UCD).

[Image credit: Print by Andrea Meldolla – mid-sixteenth century (Trustees British Museum)]

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