On Life-Writing

ISBN : 9780198704065

Zachary Leader
336 ページ
148 x 221 mm

Chapter 12 of this publication is open access, available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations. 'Life-writing' is a generic term meant to encompass a range of writings about lives or parts of lives, or which provide materials out of which lives or parts of lives are composed. These writings include not only memoir, autobiography, biography, diaries, autobiographical fiction, and biographical fiction, but letters, writs, wills, written anecdotes, depositions, marginalia, lyric poems, scientific and historical writings, and digital forms (including blogs, tweets, Facebook entries). On Life-Writing offers a sampling of approaches to the study of life-writing, introducing readers to something of the range of forms the term encompasses, their changing fortunes and features, the notions of 'life,' 'self' and 'story' which help to explain these changing fortunes and features, recent attempts to group forms, the permeability of the boundaries between forms, the moral problems raised by life-writing in all forms, but particularly in fictional forms, and the relations between life-writing and history, life-writing and psychoanalysis, life-writing and philosophy. The essays mostly focus on individual instances rather than fields, whether historical, theoretical or generic. Generalizations are grounded in particulars. For example, the role of the 'life-changing encounter,' a frequent trope in literary life-writing, is pondered by Hermione Lee through an account of a much-storied first meeting between the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova; James Shapiro examines the history of the 'cradle to grave' life-narrative, as well as the potential distortions it breeds, by focusing on Shakespeare biography, in particular attempts to explain Shakespeare's so-called 'lost years'.


1. Unravelling Shakespeare's Life
2. A Boy from Stratford: Shakespearean Biography And Romantic Nationalism
3. Romantic Biography: Conveying a Sense of Presence, Immediacy and Authenticity
4. Prosopography and Crowded Attention in Old and New Media
5. Writing Real People
6. Rosamund and Ravelstein: The Discandying of a Creator's Confection
7. 'From Memory': Literary Encounters and Life-Writing
8. Medieval Life-Writing and the Strange Case of Margery Kempe Of Lynn (c.1373-c.1440)
9. The Materiality of Early Modern Life-Writing: The Case of Richard Stonley
10. The Autobiographies of Benjamin Franklin
11. The Worst Thing I Ever Did: The Contemporary Confessional Memoir
12. The Rights to a Life
13. Human 2.0? Life-Writing In the Digital Age
14. Psychoanalysis and Autobiography
15. The Unstoried Life


Zachary Leader grew up in California but has lived in Britain for over forty years. He was educated at Northwestern University, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Harvard. In addition to teaching at Roehampton, he has taught at Caltech and the University of Chicago. He is the author of Reading Blake's Songs, Writer's Block, Revision and Romantic Authorship, and The Life of Kingsley Amis, a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. The first volume of his two-volume biography of Saul Bellow will be published this May. He has edited three volumes for OUP: On Modern British Fiction, Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Major Works (with Michael O'Neill) and The Movement Reconsidered. Leader is also general editor of the Oxford History of Life-Writing, a projected seven-volume series. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.