Oxford Centre for Life Writing: Trinity 2019

Oxford Centre for Life Writing: Trinity Term

Various Locations, Oxford

No booking requird 


New: weekly seminars
The Research Forum will take place in College every Tuesday from 1:15 to 2:30, and will feature talks and discussions from Visiting Scholars and special guests such as Devaki Jain on the Pains and Pleasures of Writing a Memoir, and Trevor Day on the Biography of a Fish. Research Forums are now open to everyone in the OCLW community, so bring your lunch, and join us! Scroll down for the details of each week's Forum.
First event: Imagining Madness
We're delighted with the range of events on offer this term at Wolfson and other venues across Oxford. We're hosting colloquia on topics as diverse as imagining madness, writing black women's lives, and inscribing biography in Global South history. There is a creative life-writing workshop themed on lists, with authors Clare Best and Lulah Ellender, as well as lectures from Sara Ahmed and Alex Georgakopoulou, and Guardian writer and biographer Aida Edemariam. Scroll down for full details, dates, times, and venues. 

We hope to see you at some of our many events this term.

Best wishes,

The OCLW team.

Trinity Term 1st Week
Tuesday 30 April
How has madness been perceived and represented by composers, biographers, medical professionals, and people who have experienced it first-hand? How should scholars conceptualise madness? 

This interdisciplinary colloquium aims to give researchers who are interested in this subject an opportunity to meet one another, hear about each other’s work, and to discuss the challenges of writing about experiences and perceptions of madness and mental illness.

For more information, including how to book, click here.

1:30 - 5:30pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Saturday 4 May
Countless writers and artists – Susan Sontag, Umberto Eco, Louise Bourgeois – have kept lists; for inspiration, to confer value, as creative provocation.

In this workshop exploring lists and life-writing, we will hear from two writers who have recently published acclaimed memoirs based on lists: Lulah Ellender (Elisabeth’s Lists, Granta 2018); and Clare Best (The Missing List, Linen Press 2018).

The day will begin with a presentation from the Mass Observation Project from the University of Sussex, who will bring along material from their archive to inspire creative writing.

After lunch Clare and Lulah will speak about their work, and then lead the group through a series of exercises designed to open up the creative potential of lists and list-making.

For more information, including how to book, click here.

10 - 5:15pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Trinity Term 2nd Week
Tuesday 7th May
Research Forum

Dr Dikmen Yakali-Camoglu is a Visiting Academic at COMPASS in Oxford. In her current research project she explores the self-narratives of the members of the Turkish diaspora in the UK and seeks to find out the ways the immigrants “narrate” their migration stories to others, to their families and children.

Thursday 9 May

This lecture by Dr Sara Ahmed draws on interviews conducted with staff and students who have made complaints within universities that relate to unfair, unjust or unequal working conditions and to abuses of power such as sexual and racial harassment. It approaches complaint as a form of diversity work: the work some have to do in order to be accommodated.

Making a complaint requires becoming an institutional mechanic: you have to work out how to get a complaint through a system. It is because of the difficulty of getting through that complaints often end up being about the system.

The lecture explores the significance of how complaints happen 'behind closed doors,' and shows how doors are often closed even when they appear to be opened.

Click here to register for your free place via Eventbrite. If you would prefer not to use Eventbrite, please email the TORCH team at torch@humanities.ox.ac.uk.

5:15 - 7:30pm, Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre, English Faculty.

Trinity Term 3rd Week
Tuesday 14th May
Research Forum

Dr Lyudmila Nurse is a Research Fellow in the Department of Education at Oxford. She is exploring the experiences of mothers with pre-school and primary school children from low-income families in England and across the EU.

Wednesday 15 May

Please join us for a one-day symposium featuring stellar scholars who bring innovative approaches to writing about black women’s lives. This intergenerational and international group will challenge us to re-consider links between biography and history in American, African American, African, and African diasporic studies. We will highlight lessons learned from prize-winning biographical work while showcasing new scholarship in the growing field of black women’s biographical studies.

Studying black women’s lives requires us to revise and expand scholarly tropes, whether on slavery, migration, politics, religion, transnationalism, or knowledge and artistic production. The capaciousness, complexity, and contradictions within those lives also often require inventions of new forms of writing and new categories of analysis.

The day’s format will encourage informal discussions among participants and the audience.

For further details please visit the symposium webpage.

9am - 5:30pm, Rothermere American Institute.
Trinity Term 4th Week
Tuesday 21st May, Florey Room
Research Forum

Trevor Day - diver, fish-watcher and marine conservationist - travels across four continents to meet the sardine in its natural environment, tracing the fish's journey from minuscule egg to item on the dinner plate. The sardine is a barometer for the health of oceans, with lessons for us all about our stewardship of the seas.

Trinity Term 5th Week
Tuesday 28th May
Research Forum

Dr Devaki Jain, one of the most influential feminist economists in India, reflects on the process of writing a life of research and advocacy, in The Pain and Pleasure of Writing a Memoir.

Friday 31 May
Stories on social media are currently algorithmically designed, engineered features, integrated into the architecture of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

What activities are viewed and branded as a story by apps, and with what semiotic and other facilities are they supported? Who is positioned as an ideal, creative, authentic storyteller? Why? And what is at stake for the users?

In this talk, Professor Alex Georgakopoulou draws on the project Life-writing of the moment: The sharing and updating self on social media to explore networked narratives and 'small stories', followed by a discussion with panellists including

 Dr Korina Giaxoglou.

5:30 - 7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Saturday 1 June
How can life-stories from the Global South enhance our understanding of southern histories, cultures, and lives? In this workshop we will explore the ethical challenges researchers have encountered in writing southern lives, as well as the question of how to write a biography in a postcolonial or decolonial context. 

We will think through how various theories of the self, of storytelling, and ways of understanding history can be brought to bear on these important questions, to provoke a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of working with individual lives as a way to study the Global South. 

Speakers include, Professor Marcio Goldman of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Professor Supriya Chaudhuri of Jadavpur University, India; Dr Ramon Sarro, Dr Nayanika Mathur and Professor Elleke Boehmer. 

For more information, including how to book, click here

10-4pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Trinity Term 7th Week
Monday 10 June
Guardian writer and biographer Aida Edemariam will talk about her biography The Wife’s Tale: the true story of one indomitable woman caught in the tumult of an extraordinary century in Ethiopia, to explore the following questions:

How do you record the life in English of a woman who did not speak English? How do you do justice to her singular voice, while also providing the context that informs that singularity? How do you tell the history of a rich and ancient culture, as far as possible on its own terms? What do you listen to and when do you really start to hear?

5:30-7pm, Leonard Wolfson Auditorium.

Tuesday 11th June, Florey Room
Research Forum

Using the arc of her own experience, from miscarriage to the birth and early babyhood of her two children, historian Professor Sarah Knott explores the ever-changing habits and experiences of motherhood across the ages. Drawing on a disparate collection of fascinating material - interrupted letters, hastily written diary entries, a line from a court record or a figure in a painting - her highly acclaimed book, Mother, vividly brings to life the lost stories of ordinary women.

Trinity Term 8th Week
Tuesday 18th June
Research Forum

Dr Wendy Wright lived in Japan for sixteen years, which inspired her novel The Air of Tokyo (2002). She researches Japanese Art, World Literature, Comparative Cultural Studies and International Trade and Law. She will give a talk titled: Letters of Japan.


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