Life Writing: borderlands between fact and fiction

Research seminars organised in collaboration with the Institute of English Studies at the University of London. October – November 2012.

Life writing has gained considerable prominence over the past twenty years, coming to rival other genres in terms of reader and academic interest. Autobiography previously featured less prominently than fiction in academic research, yet increasingly memoirs and reflective narratives are an important focus and are often evidential in philosophy, psychology and history research. These seminars will bring together writers with scholars from various disciplines, prompting a dialogue between practitioners and researchers.

The rise of the lyric essay and new types of life writing, often using fictional methods, has been accompanied by controversies about the veracity of certain autobiographies, and new styles of realist fiction which use historical fact and personal experience in an explicit and unprecedented fashion. Is it possible to establish a clear analysis of the discourse of ‘truth’, ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’? What is meant by the suggestion that fiction offers a greater truth than fact? What is the importance of narrative to memory and consciousness? What are the ethical issues surrounding writing about personal experience or revising versions of history?

The seminars are free and are on Tuesdays from 17.30 – 19.30, during October and November, 2012. All seminars will be at Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London – Venue map for Senate House. Each seminar will be led by a writer with a respondent from a different academic discipline (i.e. Literature, Philosophy, Psychology).

  • Seminar 1 – Biography, History and Fiction –  October 23,  room 261, Senate House 
    Adam Foulds, with (Literature) respondent Robert Fraser.
  • Seminar 2 – Telling the truth – November 6, room G35, Senate House
    Rachel Cusk,  with (Philosophy) respondent Nigel Warburton.
  • Seminar 3 – Memoir and memory – November 27, room G35, Senate House
    Blake Morrison, with (Psychology) respondent Charles Fernyhough.

For full programme, please click here.

For any queries regarding this seminar series, contact the series convener Derek Neale (, The Department of English, The Open University.


About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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