Biofiction Listserv

Biofiction, literature that names its protagonist after an actual biographical figure, has become a dominant literary form in recent years.  Before the 1980s, there were only a handful of well-regarded biographical novelists, but since the 1980s, writers such as Gore Vidal, Bruce Duffy, Joanna Scott, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Julia Alvarez, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Lily Tuck, Jay Parini, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Colum McCann, David Ebershoff, Anne Enright, and Hilary Mantel, to name only a notable few, authored important biographical novels that garnered much critical acclaim.  But the scholarship about biofiction is only recently starting to gain traction, and there is as of yet no formal place where scholars can share their work with each other, promote the study and teaching of biofiction, and organize events about it.

To promote scholarly work about biofiction, I have set up a listserv with the following objectives: 1) to organize conference panels on the topic of biofiction—hopefully, we can host an annual panel at the MLA convention, 2) to announce new publications about biofiction, 3) to issue CFPs about biofiction to the most suitable scholars, 4) to encourage and engage in conversations about biofiction, 5) and to share strategies for teaching biofiction.Let me explain why this is the time to create such a venue.  As I mentioned above, many prominent writers have authored stellar biographical novels.  But with regard to scholarship, the field has witnessed some exciting developments in the past twenty-five years: recent scholars such as Ina Schabert, Alain Buisine, Stephanie Bird, Mark C. Carnes, John Keener, Martin Middeke, Werner Huber, Monica Latham, Sandra Mayer, Julia Novak, Lucia Boldrini, Cora Kaplan, Marie-Luise Kohlke, Beverley Southgate, and David Lodge have authored works that have advanced the conversation about biofiction.  It was the pioneering work of all these scholars that led me to author Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists (2014), which consists of interviews with sixteen authors of biofiction.  In doing this project, many scholars and authors told me that there is a need for a venue to bring together those who have an interest in promoting and advancing scholarship about the genre.  Hence the creation of this listserv.

But there is an additional reason why this is the time for such a listserv.  Bloomsbury will publish an anthology about biofiction in November 2016, which contains authors’ prefaces, afterwords, statements, lectures, interviews, and essays about biofiction as well as scholarly studies of the genre.  So committed to biofiction is Bloomsbury that its academic division is currently considering starting a new series devoted exclusively to the aesthetic form.  There is clearly a growing market for scholarly studies about biofiction.

To subscribe, send a message to Michael Lackey (lacke010@morris.umn.edu) with Biofiction in the subject line.