Writing Lawrence and his World: Jeremy Wilson and the Art/Science of Biography
Location: Magdalen College, Oxford
Date: 30th/31st August 2023
T.E. Lawrence was a soldier, strategist, archaeologist, writer and myth, and also one of Magdalen College’s most (in)famous alumni. His life, work and exploits have been interpreted and reinterpreted by hundreds of writers with myriad perspectives, from the most passionate of fans to the critique of postcolonial commentators.
In 1989, after twenty-five years of research, Jeremy Wilson published the authorised biography of Lawrence, and claimed it as the first major objective record of Lawrence’s life. He had spent decades gathering a huge collection of evidence from official government records, copies of Lawrence’s letters to informal personal testimonies and the collections of fans.
To celebrate the completion of the cataloguing of the papers of Jeremy Wilson at the Archives of Magdalen College Oxford, we invite speakers to address the subject of “Writing Lawrence” as a starting point to discuss biographical writing on both Lawrence and his wider circle(s). We are interested in papers on:
- The practice of archival research, collecting and biographical writing on T.E. Lawrence
- Existing biographical writing on T.E. Lawrence including works by Jeremy Wilson, Liddell Hart, Robert Graves, Victoria Ocampo, Suleiman Mousa, etc.
- Biographical research and writing on Lawrence’s wider circle in the military, literary, political, artistic and archaeological worlds, e.g. King Faisal I of Iraq, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Nancy Astor, E.M. Forster, Winston Churchill, Augustus John, Gertrude Bell, etc.
- The challenge of writing a biography on Lawrence and his world. Can there be a definitive biography of a life that spanned so many fields and contained so many contradictions, and which embodies multiple meanings for different audiences? Do more elusive figures like Lawrence lend themselves particularly to subjective interpretations and fictionality in biographical writing?
Papers should not be longer than 30 minutes. Please send abstracts of c.300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January 2023.
Dr Lucy Smith
Wilson Project Archivist
Work on the Wilson Archive has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Harry and Alice Stillman Foundation.