Auto/Biographies in American History

February 5 – 7, 2016

Biography and autobiography are central to the study of American history, and this not only because U.S. history was structured and shaped by a specific and yet diverse set of historical actors. Rather, a culture based on individualism, ‘doability,’ and achievement seems to systematically create an interest in the lives of men and women acting in the contexts of their times.

The popularity and presence of biography and autobiography in American historiography stands in stark contrast to the theoretical endeavors of the field. Until recently, the biographical genre moved in the long shadow of Leon Edel and his model of the “secret-self-biography.” In the 1990s, the project of a “new biography” began to unfold, which has not only expanded the range of American biographical practice in general, but also challenges some of the key premises upon which the biographical tradition rests. Historians were – and in many cases still are –reluctant to receive the theoretical debates primarily led by literary and cultural critics.

The conference brings together practitioners in the field of biography and theoreticians from the field of literary studies to discuss the opportunities and limits of the current interdisciplinary debates about life writing.

Conference Program

Please register by January 15, 2016 with Volker Depkat:

If you registered, but cannot take part for some reason, you should notify the Academy by February 2, 2016 (at the latest); otherwise we will have to charge 50 % of the conference fee.

Conference fee:
Including room and board: 130 EUR (w/o room: 80 EUR)
We ask you to pay when checking in.

All meals are included in the conference fee. Vegetarian meals can be served if the Academy is notified in advance.