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Leading biographers head to University of East Anglia

The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot: the Last Victorian

Fri, 01 Feb 2013

Some of the country's leading biographers will come together this month for a major international conference at the University of East Anglia.

Award-winning writers Richard Holmes, Claire Tomalin, Kathryn Hughes and Charles Nicholl are among those due to attend the event, which will discuss the future biography.

Practising biographers, postgraduates and academics from America, Europe and Australia will speak on a range of topics during the two-day conference, which takes place from February 9-10 and is entitled Turning Points: The Event, The Collective and the Return to the Life in Parts. Other leading writers taking part include Miranda Seymour and Frances Wilson.

Kathryn Hughes, professor of Life Writing at UEA and author of The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot: the Last Victorian, said: "Biography is in an incredibly exciting place at the moment, finding new forms and fresh ways of exploring the lives of others. We're incredibly lucky that some of the finest practitioners of their generation, including Claire Tomalin, Charles Nicholl and Richard Holmes, are coming together at UEA next weekend to discuss where Biography is now and where it might go next."

Kathryn Holeywell, a postgraduate student in UEA's School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing and one of the conference organisers, said there had been a shift in biography away from cradle-to-grave stories towards what is now called 'partial lives', that is stories that focus on the collective or the group, or on a particular pivotal event or age.

"This change in focus raises new questions about the future of conventional biography," she said. "Can biography evolve to meet our current demands? Has the internet killed off the demand for the authoritative? In an age of best-selling celebrity memoir, does anyone still care what Shakespeare had for breakfast?

"This will be a landmark event for life writing because it will bring together some of the most influential forces of British biography."

Further details about the event and how to register (limited places available) can be found at, or email Kathryn Holeywell and Blake Darlin at