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September 05, 2013

CFP: Writing and Reading Russian Biography in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Deadline: September 15, 2013

Writing and Reading Russian Biography in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
14-16 March 2014, University College, University of Oxford

The significance of biography Russian culture of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries is enormous yet it remains surprisingly little
examined. Biography played an important role in Soviet propaganda and in
the formation of intelligentsia and dissident identities and networks
throughout the modern period. It has also been one of the few enduringly
successful and profitable genres in Russian publishing, with the ‘Lives of
Remarkable People’ series, now in its eighth decade, just one indication
of the continuing enthusiasm for biographies.

The production and consumption of biography in any culture implicates a
wide range of ontological, epistemological and narratological questions
(the balance of fact and imagination; the relationship between private and
public lives; the nature of the self and subjectivity). In the last two
centuries, such concepts of the self and of public and private, and
institutions of literature and publishing have undergone unusually
dramatic and frequent changes in Russia and the Soviet Union and these
have been reflected—indeed, concentrated—in biographical practice.
However, in most studies of Russian literature and history, biography
itself has remained implicit or secondary, to be called upon in support of
arguments rather than the subject of analysis in its own right. Moreover,
in ostensibly international studies of biography, the Russian tradition is
often omitted, or assumed to have developed along a distinct trajectory
from the West, by retaining earlier ‘hagiographic’ models of biography,
for example. This conference will take an explicitly comparative and
broadly historical approach across two centuries, in order to identify
what is distinctive about modern Russian biography, and why, while
comparing Russian practices with other cultures.

We invite 300-word paper proposals on the following themes in 19th and
20th century biography, though other approaches are also welcome:

Poetics: fact vs. fiction/imagination; characterisation, ‘psychological
prose’
Genres and texts: sketches; dokumental’nye povesti; biographical novels;
memoirs; biographical series (The Lives of Remarkable People; Fiery
Revolutionaries)
Biographical subjects: autobiography; literary biography; political
biography; prosopography
Biographers: historians; literary writers; professional biographers
Readers: reading practices; reader response; critical reception; the
market for biography
The uses of biography: propaganda; commemoration; nation and community
building
Biography and subjectivity: public vs. private selves; exemplary/heroic lives

Please email paper proposals and 1-page CV (with ‘biography conference’ as
the subject line) to Polly.Jones@univ.ox.ac.uk by 15 September 2013.

Decisions on paper proposals will be notified by 15 October 2013. Full
papers should be pre-submitted to a password-protected conference website
by mid-February 2014. An edited volume or journal special issue featuring
selected contributions is planned after the conference. Depending on the
outcome of further funding applications, there may be a small amount of
funding for international applicants’ travel, but this cannot be
guaranteed at this stage, so we urge you to investigate other funding to
enable you to attend.

Posted by jmkirsch at September 5, 2013 04:18 PM

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