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Writing Lives: Biography and Beyond

Writing Lives: Biography and Beyond

By Oxford Centre for Life-Writing
Join biographer Kate Kennedy and poet Katherine Collins from the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing as they talk to leading biographers and academics from around the world. From medieval records to social media trends, diaries to musical scores, they explore how we write about lives from every perspective.

Find out more about OCLW: www.oclw.web.ox.ac.uk
Twitter: @OxLifeWriting

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford.
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John Schad & Alexandra Harris: Imagining a Modernist Life

Writing Lives: Biography and Beyond

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Devaki Jain & Gloria Steinem: Writing a Radical Life
Noted feminist economist Devaki Jain talks about writing her memoir, The Brass Notebook (2020), with her long-term friend, Gloria Steinem. They are hosted by Katherine Collins and Elleke Boehmer. Together, they discuss Jain and Steinem’s friendship (which spans many years as fellow activists), telling their mothers’ stories, and women becoming more radical as they get older. Content warning: brief discussion of sexual assault. Keywords: feminism, economics, India, motherhood, family history, activism, feminist economics. Find out more about: Devaki Jain: Book: The Brass Notebook: A Memoir (2020) Profile: ‘First Women at Oxford’ Gloria Steinem: Website: https://www.gloriasteinem.com/ Twitter: @GloriaSteinem The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: Website: https://oclw.web.ox.ac.uk/ Twitter: @OxLifeWriting If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our online book club, then join our Friends of OCLW scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own writing projects. The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Artwork by Una. Edited by Charles Pidgeon.
41:51
October 08, 2021
John Schad & Alexandra Harris: Imagining a Modernist Life
John Schad’s experimental biography, Paris Bride: A Modernist Life, mixes fact and fiction as it speculates on the life of one of his ancestors, Marie Schad. Confronted with scant archival fact, John turns to literary pastiche and quotation to imagine her early-twentieth-century life by thinking alongside modernist writers. Long-time friend of the podcast, Alexandra Harris, a writer and literary critic who specialises in literary modernism, joins this discussion to give her insights on the literary context. Keywords: twentieth-century, modernism, experimental biography, post-criticism, family history. Find out more about: John Schad: Book: Paris Bride: A Modernist Life (2020) John is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Lancaster. See profile. Alexandra Harris: Website: https://www.alexandraharris.co.uk/ Twitter: @AlexHHarris The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: Website: https://oclw.web.ox.ac.uk/ Twitter: @OxLifeWriting If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our online book club, then join our Friends Scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own writing projects. The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Artwork by Una. Edited by Charles Pidgeon.
30:37
July 06, 2021
Helena Attlee & Sophy Roberts: writing the lives of musical instruments
Helena Attlee and Sophy Roberts have both written "biographies" of musical instruments. Sophy Roberts’s book, The Lost Pianos of Siberia, sees her track down these instruments in remote landscapes all across Russia, tracing the unique importance of pianos to Tsarist and USSR history, and the poignant stories of the individuals who used them. Helena Attlee’s book, Lev’s Violin, follows the story of one particular violin across Italy and beyond, describing the wider history of European luthiers, and exploring how we ascribe monetary value to these emotionally charged objects. They talk to Kate Kennedy (herself a cellist) about what it means to write the story of an instrument. Donate to restore Lev’s Violin: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-levs-violin Find out more about: Sophy Roberts: Book: The Lost Pianos of Siberia (2020) Website: https://www.sophyroberts.com/ Instagram: @sophy.roberts Helena Attlee: Book: Lev’s Violin: an Italian Adventure (2021) Website: www.helena-attlee.com Twitter: @HelenaAttlee The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: Website: https://oclw.web.ox.ac.uk/ Twitter: @OxLifeWriting If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our online book club, then join our Friends Scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own writing projects. The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Artwork by Una. Edited by Charles Pidgeon.
49:50
June 15, 2021
Tamarin Norwood: Writing a very brief life
Tamarin Norwood discusses her current project: writing the brief life of her son, Gabriel, who died shortly after his birth. Reflecting on her background as an artist and researcher, she talks about the deep coincidences between her doctoral research and her experiences of pregnancy, as well as how pervasive metaphors (to do with sleeping, being underwater, or in the dark) structure our cultural narratives around birth, death, and bereavement. Content warning: this episode discusses neonatal loss, grief, motherhood, and pregnancy. Find out more about: The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: https://oclw.web.ox.ac.uk/  @OxLifeWriting. Tamarin Norwood: https://tamarinnorwood.co.uk/  @TamarinNorwood Works mentioned: Sarah Knott, Mother is a verb (Sarah Crichton Books, 2019). If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our online book club, then join our Friends Scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own writing projects. The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Artwork by Una. Edited by Charles Pidgeon. If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our virtual book club, then join our Friends Scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own life writing projects.
42:54
June 01, 2021
Heather Clark & Hermione Lee: Sylvia Plath, an iconic life
Heather Clark discusses her new and highly praised biography of Sylvia Plath with celebrated biographer Hermione Lee, as well as Oxford University student, Lucy Cobold. They talk about the challenges of writing “big” biography (Clark’s biography of Plath is over 900 pages); the importance of treating women like Plath and Virginia Woolf first and foremost as professional writers rather than patients; and the conscious decision to avoid certain loaded words (like ‘doomed’ or ‘neurotic’) when approaching a writer like Plath. Find out more about The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: www.oclw.ox.ac.uk @OxLifeWriting. Heather Clark: https://heatherclarkauthor.com/  @Plathbiography Hermione Lee: http://www.hermionelee.com/ Works mentioned - Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf, 2020) - Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (Chatto & Windus, 1996). Artwork by Una. Edited by Charles Pidgeon. If you'd like to be more involved, access exclusive events and attend our virtual book club, then join our Friends Scheme. We also offer writing groups and mentoring to those working on their own life writing projects.
25:09
May 06, 2021
Richard Mabey & Alexandra Harris: Lives of Naturalists Part 2
In this follow up discussion to Episode 1, Richard Mabey, Alexandra Harris, and Katherine Collins discuss the connections between life-writing and place. They talk about the overlap between science and poetry as ways of exploring the world around us, how our senses shape our writing, Gilbert White's attempt to communicate with his pet tortoise, and Richard's ideas about the future of nature writing. Find out more about: The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: www.oclw.ox.ac.uk @OxLifeWriting. Richard Mabey: https://richardmabey.co.uk/ Alexandra Harris: https://www.alexandraharris.co.uk/ Works mentioned: - Richard Mabey, Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural History of Selbourne [1986] (Allen & Unwin, 2006). - Alice Oswald, ‘Tithonus, 46 minutes in the life of the dawn’ in Falling Awake (Johnathan Cape, 2016). - Annie Dillard, The Writing Life [1989] (Harper Collins, 2013). - Richard Powers, The Overstory (W.W. Norton and Company, 2018). - Verlyn Kinklenborg, Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Edited by Charles Pidgeon. Artwork by Una.
26:07
May 06, 2021
Richard Mabey & Alexandra Harris: Lives of Naturalists Part 1
Celebrated nature writer Richard Mabey discusses the relationship between biography, nature, and place with literary critic Alexandra Harris. They delve into a life-writing classic, Richard's biography of the eighteenth-century naturalist Gilbert White, which won the Whitbread Biography Prize in 1986, and discuss what drew him to write about 'this quiet curate of Selbourne' and the ways in which a writer's sense of place may shape their writing. This episode is part of our flagship series of Weinrebe Lectures. It is the first instalment of an annual collaboration with the Arts of Place Network at the University of Birmingham, which promotes work on cultural histories of landscape, locality and environment. Find out more about: The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing: www.oclw.ox.ac.uk @OxLifeWriting. Richard Mabey: https://richardmabey.co.uk/  Alexandra Harris: https://www.alexandraharris.co.uk/ Arts of Place: https://more.bham.ac.uk/artsofplace/  Works mentioned: Richard Mabey, Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural History of Selbourne [1986] (Allen & Unwin, 2006). Richard Mabey, Food for Free [1972] (Harper Collins, 2007). The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing is based at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Edited by Charles Pidgeon. Artwork by Una.
48:18
May 04, 2021
Trailer
A first look at the new podcast series by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Co-hosts Kate Kennedy and Katherine Collins introduce themselves and the podcast, indicating what listeners can expect to hear: interesting discussions with noted writers, biographers, and academics. Hermione Lee and Elleke Boehmer describe what we mean by life-writing as well as its importance as a vital cultural practice. Find out more about OCLW: www.oclw.ox.ac.uk @OxLifeWriting.
02:05
April 23, 2021