‘Let the past and its oddness provoke us’ – A day at the Oxford Centre for Life Writing, by Corrina Connor

From the OBERTO blog – a short report on a stimulating OLWC workshop in early November.

OBERTO

Biography and life-writing are often central to musicology, and to opera studies in particular. Although my own research does not involve writing a biography of any particular performer, I am investigating the professional – and also the personal – lives of a number of singers who worked at the Theater an der Wien in the 1870s and 1880s. When I saw an announcement for a day workshop called ‘Quest for Materials: Life-Writing Challenges’, run by the Oxford Centre for Life Writing (OCLW), I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to learn techniques for life-writing, particularly as the workshop was directed by Hermione Lee, with Lyndall Gordon, Clare Morgan and Elleke Boehmer, all eminent authors.

I had expected the workshop to explore the nuts and bolts of life-writing: research techniques, or how to search and collate archival finds. Instead, with the participants divided into three groups of about a dozen…

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