Perhaps like no other literary genre, biography is a neglected subject in the study of literary education, and yet it seems almost ubiquitous in teaching with respect to its various roles and formats as cultural practice – speaking and reading about the identity and/or the life of another ranges from conversations and blogs to royal and celebrity biographies, just as biography’s small forms and structural patterns pervade larger literary genres, above all the modern novel.
In this seminar, we shall attempt to study a broad range of such phenomena (in texts, films, digital media). Among the literary texts to be studied (please obtain your own copies!) are Samuel Johnson’s Life of Savage, Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, and John Bayley’s Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch. Apart from these three paperbacks that you need to purchase, the course material will be available on the Moodle platform.