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Life Writing: borderlands between fact and fiction

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 18:30 to 20:30
Saturday, October 27, 2012 - 18:30 to 20:30
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 17:30 to 19:30
Senate House, UL, Malet Street, London.

A series of seminars organised by the OU’s Contemporary Cultures of Writing Research Group in collaboration with the Institute of English Studies, UL
October - November 2012  

Here is downloadable flyer for the events [PDF, 64 KB].

Life writing and fiction based on fact have gained considerable prominence over the past twenty years, raising many issues for writers and readers. What is meant by the suggestion that fiction offers a greater truth than fact? What is the importance of narrative to memory and consciousness? What are the ethical issues surrounding memoir? One writer will speak at each of the three events, with a respondent from a different academic discipline (i.e.. psychologist, philosopher, literary historian).  

The seminars are free and are on Tuesdays from 17.30 – 19.30, during October and November, 2012. All seminars will be at 

Venue map for Senate House

Seminar 1 – Biography, History and Fiction – October 23, 2012
Venue:  Room 261, Senate House

Adam Foulds photoAdam Foulds, with (Literature) respondent Robert Fraser.

Adam Foulds is the author of two novels and a narrative poem.  A graduate of Oxford and the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, he is the recipient of a number of literary awards, including the Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year Award, the Costa Poetry Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the European Union Prize For Literature.  His last novel, The Quickening Maze, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  The Quickening Maze blends fictional characters with real historical figures and concerns the poet John Clare's first period of incarceration, in a private mental asylum in Epping Forest.

Robert Fraser photoRobert Fraser has written biographies of the poets George Barker (2001) and David Gascoyne (2012) and plays on the lives of Byron, Dr Johnson, Carlo Gesualdo, Katherine Mansfield and D. H. Lawrence (2010). He also has published “textual biographies” of J. G. Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1990) and Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (1994). After teaching at Leeds, London and Cambridge universities, he is now Professor of English at the OU.


Seminar 2 – Telling the truth – November 6, 2012
Venue: Room G35, Senate House

Rachel Cusk,  with (Philosophy) respondent Nigel Warburton.

Rachel Cusk photoRachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of several novels and  works of non-fiction, including A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother.  She was named one of Granta's Twenty Best Young British Novelists and  is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her most recent book  is Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation. She teaches creative  writing at Kingston University.

Photo credit: Adrian Clarke

Nigel Warburton photoNigel Warburton is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University. His books include A Little History of Philosophy, The Art Question, Philosophy: The Basics, Thinking from A to Z, Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction, and a biography of the architect Ernö Goldfinger. He has also edited a book about the photographer Bill Brandt and is currently researching a new book about photography. At the Open University he chaired the suite of writing courses Start Writing. He is probably best known as the interviewer on the podcasts Philosophy Bites (200 interviews with philosophers – 15 million downloads to date) and Social Science Bites, both of which he makes with David Edmonds. Two books based on the philosophy podcast have been published by OUP: Philosophy Bites and Philosophy Bites Back. His latest podcast series is Free Speech Bites, made in association with SAGE for Index on Censorship. For more information see

Seminar 3 – Memoir and memory – November 27, 2012
Venue: Room G35, Senate House

Blake Morrison, with (Psychology) respondent Charles Fernyhough.

Blake Morrison photoBlake Morrison was born in Skipton, Yorkshire, and was formerly literary editor of the Observer and the Independent on Sunday. His books include two collections of poetry, Dark Glasses and The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper; two bestselling memoirs, And When Did You Last See Your Father? (made into a film starring Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth) and Things My Mother Never Told Me; a children’s book, The Yellow House; several play adaptations and libretti; a collection of essays and stories, Too True; and three novels, including South of the River (2007) and The Last Weekend (2010) – the latter was recently dramatised for television. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and is professor of creative writing at Goldsmiths College.

Charles Fernyhough photoCharles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. His non-fiction book, The Baby in the Mirror (Granta, 2008) has been translated into seven languages. His book on autobiographical memory, Pieces of Light, is published by Profile Books in the UK (forthcoming from HarperCollins USA, March 2013). He is the author of two novels, The Auctioneer (Fourth Estate, 1999) and A Box Of Birds (Unbound, 2012).

Awards include a Time to Write Award (2001) from the Northern Writers’ Awards, and an Arts Council of England Grant for the Arts (2005). Charles has taught creative writing, with a particular focus on psychological processes in reading and writing, in a variety of contexts around the UK, including a short course on Creative Writing and Psychology at Newcastle University. He is a faculty member of the School of Life in London, and has appeared at festivals in Barcelona, Sydney, Edinburgh, Hay-on-Wye, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Charles has written for the Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, Sunday Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday and Sydney Morning Herald. He blogs for the US magazine Psychology Today and has made numerous radio appearances in the UK and US. He is a part-time reader in psychology at Durham University, where he conducts research in child development, hallucinations and memory. Further details are available at


For any queries regarding this seminar series, contact the organiser Derek Neale (, The Department of English, The Open University.

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