After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity

torch 360

Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and TORCH are funding two conferences related to life-writing this year, please see below for details on the conference, ‘After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity':

Call for Papers, 15 May abstract submission deadline


After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity
Saturday, 19 September 2015
The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) at Wolfson College, Oxford

With funding from the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London (CLWR)


Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities (University of East Anglia) and 2015 Writer in Residence, The Eccles Centre at the British Library.

Andrew O'Hagan, Novelist, and Creative Writing Fellow (King's College London).


In the last decade, the fields of life-writing and celebrity studies have separately gained traction as areas for provocative critical analysis, but the significant connections between them have been overlooked. In celebrity studies, stories about individual people are examined through national, cultural, economic and political contexts. The function of the person’s image is considered rather than the life from which that image was/is derived. Conversely, life-writing does not always take into account the impact of celebrity on the life, and instead portrays it as an event rather than a condition with psychological impact which could be an integral part of the narrative.

Through a one-day conference entitled ‘After-Image: Life-Writing and Celebrity,’ we want to consider the interplay between celebrity and life-writing. The conference will explore ideas of image, persona and self-fashioning in an historical as well as a contemporary context and the role these concepts play in the writing of lives. How does the story (telling) of a historical life—of Cleopatra or Abraham Lincoln, for instance— alter when we re-read it in terms of celebrity? What is the human impact of being a celebrity— in the words of Richard Dyer, ‘part of the coinage of every day speech’? And how does this factor in when we use archival materials related to celebrities, such as diaries, letters, memoirs, interviews, press accounts, oral histories, apocryphal tales, etc.? Furthermore, what are the ethical responsibilities of life-writers when approaching such famous stories?


Possible topics for papers include but are not limited to:

    Celebrity in the fields of literature, politics, entertainment and public life
    Historical reevaluations of celebrity from earlier periods
    Royal lives
    The politics of writing celebrity lives
    The psychology of celebrity
    Fame, famousness, fandom, stardom, myth and/or iconicity
    The celebrity as life-writer (i.e. celebrity memoirs, etc.)
    Using celebrity lives in historical fiction
    The celebrity and identity
    Showmanship, freak shows and the circus
    Identity, power and violence in lives of the famous
    Images and the press
    Writing celebrity lives from below


We also welcome papers on any issues arising from these questions and disciplines.

The conference organizers invite abstracts for individual 20-minute presentations/papers or panel proposals. Presenters should submit abstracts of 300 words by 15 May 2015 to Nanette O’Brien ( and Oline Eaton ( Please send your abstract as a separate attachment in a PDF or Word document, and include on it your name, affiliation, and a brief bio.


The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, OCLW