[Vwoolf] Biofiction listserv

Mark Hussey mhussey at verizon.net
Mon Aug 24 13:05:14 EDT 2015

Michael Lackey has requested I share the following info with the VWoolf


Biofiction Listserv

            Biofiction, literature that names its protagonist after an
actual biographical figure, has become a dominant literary form in recent
years.  Before the 1980s, there were only a handful of well-regarded
biographical novelists, but since the 1980s, writers such as Gore Vidal,
Bruce Duffy, Joanna Scott, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Julia Alvarez,
Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Lily Tuck, Jay Parini,
Barbara Chase-Riboud, Colum McCann, David Ebershoff, Anne Enright, and
Hilary Mantel, to name only a notable few, authored important biographical
novels that garnered much critical acclaim.  But the scholarship about
biofiction is only recently starting to gain traction, and there is as of
yet no formal place where scholars can share their work with each other,
promote the study and teaching of biofiction, and organize events about it.

Now some could argue that the IABA listserv is a suitable venue for
promoting and advertising work about biofiction.  But this is not entirely
correct.  While it is certainly true that there are some major intersections
and shared assumptions between biofiction and life writing and that many
scholars of biofiction are indebted to the scholars who have done so much
work on biography, it is also true that most authors of biofiction insist
that they are writing fiction, not biography or life writing.  

Therefore, to promote scholarly work about biofiction, I have set up a
listserv with the following objectives: 1) to organize conference panels on
the topic of biofiction-hopefully, we can host an annual panel at the MLA
convention, 2) to announce new publications about biofiction, 3) to issue
CFPs about biofiction to the most suitable scholars, 4) to encourage and
engage in conversations about biofiction, 5) and to share strategies for
teaching biofiction.  

Let me explain why this is the time to create such a venue.  As I mentioned
above, many prominent writers have authored stellar biographical novels.
But with regard to scholarship, the field has witnessed some exciting
developments in the past twenty-five years: recent scholars such as Ina
Schabert, Alain Buisine, Stephanie Bird, Mark C. Carnes, John Keener, Martin
Middeke, Werner Huber, Monica Latham, Sandra Mayer, Julia Novak, Lucia
Boldrini, Cora Kaplan, Marie-Luise Kohlke, Beverley Southgate, and David
Lodge have authored works that have advanced the conversation about
biofiction.  It was the pioneering work of all these scholars that led me to
author Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists
(2014), which consists of interviews with sixteen authors of biofiction.  In
doing this project, many scholars and authors told me that there is a need
for a venue to bring together those who have an interest in promoting and
advancing scholarship about the genre.  Hence the creation of this listserv.

But there is an additional reason why this is the time for such a listserv.
Bloomsbury will publish an anthology about biofiction in November 2016,
which contains authors' prefaces, afterwords, statements, lectures,
interviews, and essays about biofiction as well as scholarly studies of the
genre.  So committed to biofiction is Bloomsbury that its academic division
is currently considering starting a new series devoted exclusively to the
aesthetic form.  There is clearly a growing market for scholarly studies
about biofiction. 

To subscribe, send a message to Michael Lackey (lacke010 at morris.umn.edu)
with Biofiction in the subject line.


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