Event Series: Auto / Bio / Fiction

Convened by Lucia Boldrini (Goldsmiths), Natasha Bell (Goldsmiths) and Lucia Claudia Fiorella (University of Udine, Italy)

The exponential multiplication of texts described by the relatively recent critical terms Biofiction and Autofiction is often associated with postmodernism and its aftermath – the attention to the instability of the category of the ‘real’, the questioning of the confines of the self, the construction, and not just representation, of the subject in writing and through narrative.

Dissolved boundaries of a multiplied self. Based on a painting by Alvaro Danti

However, the critical reflection on these literary forms has led to the expansion of their formal, generic, historical span and to the examination of the role that autofictional and biofictional texts can acquire in exploring aesthetic, ethical, political, philosophical concerns central to their different times and cultures.

Their liminality, their relationship with proper names, their imbrication, fusion and confusion of person and character, their search for (and perhaps rejection of) selves defined as and through others, the reflection and dissolving of the boundaries of the self, their inquiry into what is a life, its edges, confines and centre(s), the radical difference and the confluence of Autofiction and Biofiction will be some of the questions we set out to explore.

Starting in Autumn 2022, Auto / Bio / Fiction will include talks, seminars, roundtables, readings, reading groups, book launches and live book reviews and aims to put in dialogue (and possibly in dispute) different interpretations and practices of biofiction, autofiction and neighbouring genres and art forms, and discuss the questions raised by these forms and their critical and textual encounters.



The full 2022-23 programme is being finalised and will be published shortly, but we are delighted to announce the seminars for the Autumn term:

27 October 2022, 17:30 BST (online)

Michael Lackey, ‘Zora Neale Hurston and Thomas Mann: Moses Biofictions as Political Interventions’

Virginia Rademacher, ‘Derivative Lives: 21st Century Spanish Biofictions in Speculative Times’

Read more about the speakers and their papers, and book to attend.

17 November 2022, 17:30 UTC (online)

Hywel Dix, ‘Autofiction and Cultural Memory’

Hanna Meretoja, ‘Metanarrative Life-Writing: Intersections of Life and Narrative in Autofiction and Biofiction’

Read more about the speakers and their papers, and book to attend.

15 December 2022, 17:30 UTC (online)

Varsha Panjwani, ‘The Many Lives of Judith Shakespeare: Feminist Life-Writings’

Laura Cernat, ‘Portraits of the Artist’s Wife in a Slanted Mirror: Reader, Mother, Lover, Sorceress’

Read more about the speakers and their papers and book to attend.

26 January 2023, 17:30 UTC (online)

Anna Borgarello, ‘Of Adventurers and Storytellers: Narrations of the Self and the Other in Via Gemito by Domenico Starnone and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère’

Riccardo Castellana ‘Biofiction in Italy: Typologies, Traditions and Reception’

Read more about the speakers and their papers and book to attend.

9 February 2023, 17:30 UTC (online) To be rescheduled due to UCU strike action

Guido Mazzoni, ‘Like everyone else. Annie Ernaux’s The Years’

Jarred McGinnis, ‘Alchemizing the self for fiction’

Read more about the speakers and their papers and the plans for rescheduling.

9 March 2023, 17:30 UTC (online)

Lorenzo Marchese, ‘A Brief History of Italian Autofiction’

Julia Kritsikokas, ‘The Writing of Trauma in French Women’s Autofiction: Annie Ernaux and Nina Yargekov’

Read more about the speakers and their papers and book to attend.

8 June 2023 (online)

Auto / Bio / Fiction in Practice: A Symposium. The series concludes with a half-day symposium dedicated to the practice and practice-led research of autofiction, biofiction and other literary forms worrying the boundaries between truth and fiction, life and art, self and character.

Keynote Speaker: Jarred McGinnis

Deadline to submit presentation proposals: 3 April 20-23

Read the Call for Papers and find out more about the Symposium.

Speakers in the series include:

Anna Borgarello, PhD candidate at Columbia University, is working on a dissertation entitled Bifocal Narratives. The Self and the Other in Contemporary Literature, which addresses the relationship between the self and the other in 21st century Italian, French and Anglo-American literatures.

Riccardo Castellana, Professor of Contemporary Italian Literature at the Università di Siena and author of Finzioni biografiche. Teoria e storia di un genere ibrido (Carocci, 2019)

Laura Cernat, PhD candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium, is working on a thesis about contemporary biofiction. She has published extensively on this and other areas, and was one of the main organizers of the international conference Biofiction as World Literature in 2021.

Hywel Dix, Associate Professor of English at Bournemouth University and editor of Autofiction in English (2018)

Nora Goldschmidt, Professor of Classics and Ancient History of Durham University. She is the author of Afterlives of the Roman Poets: Biofiction and the Reception of Latin Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2019) and co-editor of Tombs of the Ancient Poets: Between Literary Reception and Material Culture (Oxford University Press, 2018). She is currently leading an AHRC-funded project on modernism and the classical fragment.

Julia Kritsikokas, PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of Palermo, is interested in literature and law, écriture feminine, trauma studies and autofiction.

Michael Lackey, Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, author and editor of twelve books, including Truthful Fictions, The American Biographical Novel and Ireland, the Irish, and the Rise of Biofiction. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled German Biofiction from Nietzsche until the Present.

Lorenzo Marchese, Assistant Professor in Comparative literature at University of Palermo. He is the author of L’io possibile. L’autofiction come paradosso del romanzo contemporaneo, (2014) and Storiografie parallele. Cos’è la non-fiction? (2019)

Guido Mazzoni, poet and Professor of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at the University of Siena, he is the author of widely translated books of poetry and literary theory, including, among the former, La pura superficie (2017) and, among the latter, Theory of the Novel (2017).

Hanna Meretoja, Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory at the University of Turku (Finland), and author, among other books, of The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History, and the Possible (2018) and The Narrative Turn in Fiction and Theory (2014).

Jarred McGinnis was chosen as one of the UK’s ten best emerging writers. His debut novel The Coward was selected for BBC 2’s Between the Covers, BBC Radio 2’s Book Club and listed for the Barbellion Prize.

Varsha Panjwani’s research focuses on the way in which Shakespeare can be deployed for intersectional feminism and how this, in turn, invigorates Shakespeare. She hosts the podcast ‘Women & Shakespeare’ and is the author of Podcasts & Feminist Shakespeare Pedagogy (forthcoming 2022, Cambridge University Press).

Virginia (Jenny) Newhall Rademacher‘s research centers on interdisciplinary connections among literary strategy and narrative theory, film and media studies, and cultural change. Her book Derivative Lives: Biofiction, Uncertainty, and Speculative Risk in Contemporary Spanish Narrative will be published in August 2022 by Bloomsbury.


The organisers

Natasha Bell is an author and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Through practice-led research, she’s exploring the purpose and ethics of autofictional examinations of the writing self. Her novels This Nowhere Place (2021) and His Perfect Wife (2018) are published by Penguin, and she teaches Creative Writing for City Lit and Jericho Writers.

Lucia Boldrini is Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the Department of English & Creative Writing at Goldsmiths and Director of the Centre for Comparative Literature. She is the author of Biografie fittizie e personaggi storici: (Auto)biografia, soggettività, teoria nel romanzo inglese contemporaneo (Pisa: ETS, 1998), Autobiographies of Others: Historical Subjects and Literary Fiction (Routledge, 2012) and as editor, Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction, with Julia Novak (2017). She is the President of the International Comparative Literature Association, and with Michael Lackey and Monica Latham she edits the Bloomsbury Biofiction Series.

Lucia Claudia Fiorella is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Udine, Italy. Her research focuses on postcolonial literature and on auto/biographism. Her publications include a book on representations of evil in J.M. Coetzee (Figure del Male nella narrativa di  J.M. Coetzee, 2006) and Oltre il patto autobiografico. Da Barthes a Coetzee [Beyond the Autobiographical Pact: From Barthes to Coetzee] Artemide, 2020).