Postmodernist Biofiction: A one-day conference at the University of Reading on 25th March 2017


Keynote speakers: Maggie Gee, author of Virginia Woolf in Manhattan , David Lodge, author of A Man of Parts and Author, Author, and Susan Sellers, author of Vanessa and Virginia.


Biographical fiction, or biofiction, is an increasingly popular subgenre of the contemporary novel, with writers’ lives attracting particular attention. David Lodge defines biofiction as ‘a novel which takes a real person and their real history as the subject matter for imaginative exploration, using the novel’s techniques for representing subjectivity rather than the objective, evidence-based discourse of biography’. Biofiction is also distinguishable by its use of the subject’s real name. This real-world proper noun situates biofiction on the ontological frontier between biography and fiction, and distinguishes the genre from the more numerous, but less explicit, engagements of roman-à-clef.


Practitioners, students, and scholars of biofiction are warmly invited to the University of Reading for a day of informal conversations about this exciting sub-genre. We are especially (but not exclusively) interested in discussing the postmodernity of biofiction, both in terms of its modernist subjects and postmodern narrative strategies.

Topics may include, but are by no means limited to:


  • The origins of biofiction: what cultural conditions enabled the evolution of the genre?
  • The ethics of biofiction: how much invention is legitimate?
  • The peculiarities of writing the lives of writers: how far does the work inform the life? Why have certain writers attracted so much attention?
  • Biofiction’s envisaged audience: how far does it depend on readers’ prior knowledge of the subject?
  • The discursive nature of biofiction: how far does biofiction engage with the historical subject, how far with a textual construct?
  • The (im)possibility of life writing: biofiction’s relationship with biography, autobiography, memoir, and creative non-fiction
  • Biofiction as a form of adaptation, appropriation, and/or literary criticism
  • Biofiction’s relationship with the literary biopic


Please send 300-500-word proposals for twenty-minute papers or three-paper panels to by 24th January 2017.


Please send enquiries to Bethany Layne ( or Madeleine Davies (


Registration fees: £30 standard / £15 unwaged; free to Reading University students