Researching Living Writers


Dr Sarah Dillon, University of Cambridge – Realising They’re Real, and the Consequences Thereof

Dr Florian Mussgnug, University College London

Maggie Gee, Novelist and Professor of Creative Writing, Bath Spa University – What is it like for a writer? Working with Sarah Dillon and Caroline Edwards on Maggie Gee: Critical Essays (Gylphi) and Mine Ozyurt Kilic on Maggie Gee: Writing the Condition-of-England Novel (Bloomsbury)

Anthony Levings, Gylphi – Anxieties of Influence: The Author in the Room

We all know that in 1967 Roland Barthes declared the death of the author and the rise of the reader. Poststructuralist literary theory has done much to elevate the status of the reader in literary criticism and to redefine criticism as the close attention to textuality rather than the search to uncover authorial intention. At the same time, historical and biographical literary criticism is committed to enhancing a reading of the text through engagement with both its historical context and the life of the author, information about which is gathered through attention to archival preservations of their notes and letters, to autobiographies and to other traces they have left behind. Unless, of course, they are still here. Working on living authors poses a unique and fascinating challenge to literary scholars and to the authors on whom they are working. In Maggie Gee’s novel The Flood (2004) the academic working on a living novelist is satirically figured as a parasite, desperate for the novelist’s approval of her interpretations; in Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (2014) Gee develops this theme even further by resurrecting Woolf in the twenty first century and exploring the comic, frustrating and intimate consequences of the encounter between scholar and living subject. In this roundtable discussion, two scholars of contemporary literature and theory, and a publisher specialising in contemporary scholarship, join Maggie Gee to discuss the challenges and the joys, as well as the theoretical, practical and often uncanny consequences, of researching living writers.

Friday 7th July, 9.30