Skip to content

Toggle service links
Contemporary cultures of writing image

Contemporary cultures of writing

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Creative nonfiction: debates and directions

Creative nonfiction: debates and directions

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 18:30
Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

Autumn 2016 series of OU CCW readings and seminars

The seminar series  is hosted by The Open University’s Contemporary Cultures of Writing Research Group in partnership with the Institute of English Studies, University of London. All events are free and everyone is welcome to come along.

Taking off from what Whitman says about ‘the imaginative faculty of modern times’ as giving ‘ultimate vivification to facts, to science, and to common lives’, this series reflects on whether the popularisation of creative nonfiction is related to a parallel change in our cultures. Has the democratization of literature and the effects of gender-, identity-, and cultural politics offered new ideas on what is worthy of literary engagement?  The memoir, the critique, the lyric meditation and the researched fact are all part of contemporary creative nonfiction. Writers have therefore developed and refined their approaches to life-writing, reportage, travel writing, the lyric essay and literary autobiography. Such forms raise questions about genre boundaries and authorial intent as well as debates about truth and representation. We hope to characterise the current debates and to predict what new developments might emerge within, and from, the form. It’s a particularly interesting time for creative nonfiction at the OU since the module team developing the new MA in Creative Writing is part of creating the canon and since several OU Associate Lecturers and PhD students are engaged in exploring the distinctive possibilities of creative nonfiction. We are delighted to welcome the writers and thinkers below and hope many will join us for lively debate and conversation.

Venue map for Senate House.

No need to book in advance. All are welcome to these free events. Refreshments are served.

Seminar 1: September 20, 2016
‘Contested Spaces’: Hannah Lowe, Sharmilla Beezmohun and Meg Jensen

Gordon Room, G34, (ground floor) IES, Senate House 

Hannah LoweHannah Lowe used both public and personal archives to write her memoir Long Time, No See which is partly focused on her Jamaican-Chinese father who arrived in Liverpool in 1947. She will present the work as well as talking about the challenges of negotiating the research for life-writing – from written sources to oral histories.

Sharmilla BeezmohunSharmilla Beezmohun is the Deputy Editor of Wasafiri and co-founder of Speaking Volumes Literature Productions which, after a US tour by Black British Writers, has received an International Showcasing Grant from Arts Council England.  Sharmilla’s novel Echoes of a Green Land was published in Spanish translation and her essays appear in Sable LitMag and elsewhere. She will address current forms and approaches in cnf in relation to identity politics and other areas of contest/contemplation.

Meg JensenMeg Jensen directs the Centre for Life Narratives at Kingston University London. Editor, with Margaret Jolly, of  Life Narratives and Human Rights, her work on auto/biography appears in journals including  Lifewriting and Textual Practice. Meg will read from her memoir and also address the ethical terrain of nonfiction writing, asking whether it deals in the kinds of truths that change our understandings of that word. 

Seminar 2: October 18, 2016
‘Negotiated Truths’: Anna Derrig and Sarah Law

Gordon Room, G34, (ground floor) IES, Senate House 

Anna Derrig works in the evolving field of ethics and contemporary life writing. She has studied, commented on, and taught research ethics, and consent and life writing and is a member of the English and Comparative Literature Dept at Goldsmiths. Anna’s current work includes  a memoir and a textbook on ethics and consent in creative non-fiction. Her work is featured in anthologies from Penquin and Virago and she contributed to the Future of Digital Creativity panel at the CREATe Festival in 2016.

Sarah LawSarah Law has written five poetry collections, the latest of which is Ink's Wish (Gatehouse, 2014). This evening, Sarah will discuss her creative nonfiction work on medieval visionary Julian of Norwich, which draws on her unique experience of working in the Julian Centre, Norwich. She will read from her chapter 'In the Centre' (in Julian of Norwich's Legacy, eds. Salih and Baker, Palgrave, 2009) and other work, presenting a creative and multilayered approach to Julian.

Seminar 3: November 15, 2016
‘Bodies Politic’ with Matthew Green and Janet Wolff

Note the change of room to 243 on the second floor -  IES, Senate House

Janet WolffJanet Wolff is Professor Emerita in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester. She has also taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Rochester (New York), and Columbia University. She is the author of seven books on aesthetics and the sociology of art and culture. She has recently completed a book, Austerity Baby, which combines memoir, family history, cultural criticism and visual imagery. Janet will read from this work, discussing how bodies of knowledge can be approached and created in creative nonfiction. Austerity Baby will be published by MUP in Spring 2017.

Matthew Green (c) Gerard CollettMatthew Green is the author of Aftershock: the untold story of surviving peace. Over the last decade, the UK has sent thousands of people to fight on our behalf. But what happens when these soldiers come back home, having lost their friends and killed their enemies, having seen and done things that have no place in civilian life? In Aftershock, Matthew Green uses the form of creative nonfiction to ask questions about the body of story and memory that makes up the tale of veterans’ journey from the frontline of combat to the reality of return.

Contact Us

Contact Derek Neale or Ed Hogan by email: 

The Postal Address is:

Department of English and Creative Writing
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Tel +44-1908-652092