Beyond Boundaries

Conference Beyond Boundaries: Authorship and Readership in Life Writing

Date: Time: 08:30 Location: Cobbenhagen building, CZ 109

The two-day conference ‒ 24 & 25 October ‒ focuses on the question how authors and readers matter in life writing. It explores similarities and differences in self-representaton by adult and young authors and it discusses to what extent readers' age plays a role in how they are addressed in life narratives.

In The Limits of Life Writing David McCooey (2017) argues that in life-writing studies, the concept of limits or boundaries plays a central role. Since the rise of auto/biography studies in the 1970s and 1980s critical attention has been paid to generic limits and the limits concerning the auto/biographical subject. With respect to the former, discussions have evolved in particular around the boundaries between literary and factual writing, and between verbal, graphic, audio-visual and digital forms of life writing. In regard to the latter, since the 1990s academics have given attention to the expansion of auto/biographical subjects previously marginalized, which has deepened, among other things, the cross-cultural understanding of experience and identity. This expansion of auto/biographical subjects, but also the rise of social media as a medium for life writing have contested the limits of selfhood.

Life writing for different audiences       

However, some other limits have gone largely unnoticed in life-writing research so far. Two of them will be the center of attention during this conference, one having to do with readership, and the other concerned with authorship. Until now little attention has been paid to the boundaries between life writing for adults on the one hand and life writing for young readers on the other. Crossing these boundaries can provide fruitful debates about how the reader matters and how studying the reception and addressed audiences of life writing is important.

Life writing by adults and young people

Another issue that has not received much attention in life writing research is the boundary between life writing by adult authors and life narratives by young people. As Douglas and Poletti (2016) argue, the contribution of young writers to life writing has so far been largely overlooked. How do they relate to narratives by adults? How similar or different are the ways in which adult and young writers engage in modes of self-representation? And what is the influence of social media on life writing by young people?


Main sessions for Thursday, 24 October:

  • Keynote Lecture
  • Session 1: Transnational Life Writing and Creating Childhoods Through Life Writing
  • Session 2: Life Writing in Text and Images
  • Session 3: Boundaries and (Dual) Authorship in Literary Biography
  • Author's Lecture

Main sessions for Friday, 25 October:

  • Keynote Lecture
  • Session 4: Boundaries between Life and Work
  • Session 5: Autobiography and Autofiction in Life Writing
  • Session 6: The Experience of the Other in Life Writing
  • Author's Lecture

Full program of Beyond Boundaries. Authorship and Readership in Life Writings.

The final schedule will be available at registration as well as on our website.

Keynotes and Author's Lectures

Anna Poletti

Anna Poletti is Associate Professor of English Language and Culture at the University of Utrecht. Her research focus is contemporary forms of life narrative, with a particular interest in youth cultures, ephemera (both digital and analogue) and the role of mediation and materiality in autobiography. Drawing on feminist and queer theory traditions, Anna's published work examines how the materiality of media forms – from handmade postcards, to the selfie – inform the presentation of stories from lived experience.
Anna’s first book, Intimate Ephemera: Reading Young Lives in Australian Zine Culture (2008), opened up a new area in the study of life writing through an analysis of the importance of autobiography in a dynamic culture of self-publishing in Australia. Anna is co-author of the first study of life narrative in youth cultures, Life Narratives and Youth Culture: Representation, Agency and Participation (with Kate Douglas, 2016), and co-editor of the essay collection Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online (with Julie Rak, 2014). Their next book, on the intersection of autobiography and media, is forthcoming from New York University Press in 2020.

Edward van de Vendel

Edward van de Vendel was trained as an elementary school teacher and taught at different schools before he became a fulltime writer in 2001. He writes novels for children and young adults, poetry, picturebooks, non-fiction and song lyrics. His books were awarded with the Golden Kiss (Gouden Zoen/Gouden Lijst, best book for teenagers, 4x), Silver Slate (Zilveren Griffel, best books for children, 9x), Woutertje Pieterse Prijs (critic’s choice, 2x), Children’s Prize (Flanders, Belgium), the Prix Sorcières (France, best picturebook) and the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis (Germany, best picturebook). He was nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2011, 2012, 2019, and 2020, and in 2018 for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. His books are translated into more than twenty-five languages.

Julia Lajta-Novak

Julia Lajta-Novak is a lecturer in English literature and cultural studies, literature manager, and poet. She studied English and Music in Vienna and Edinburgh, and Arts Management in London. She has been a research fellow at the University of Salzburg and a visiting fellow at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, King's College University of London, and the English Faculty, University of Oxford, as well as visiting professor of English and Anglophone Literatures at the University of Vienna. Apart from having published numerous articles and several books, she is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Life Writing, and one of the editors of Experiments in Life-Writing: Intersections of Auto/Biography and Fiction (2017). For her scholarly and literary work she has received a number of prizes and awards, among them the Theodor Körner Prize, the Dr Maria Schaumayer Prize, the DOC Award of the City of Vienna, and a DOC scholarship by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In 2015 she was awarded the University of Salzburg’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Bart Moeyaert

Bart Moeyaert made his debut as an author in 1983 with Duet met valse noten (Off-Key Duet), a book that has achieved the status of a classic in Dutch-speaking countries. Since then, he published many other novels and poems for children, young adults and adults, as well as scripts for theatre and televison. His body of work consists of about fifty titles. His best-known books are Blote handen (Bare Hands, 1995), Het is de liefde die we niet begrijpen (It's Love We Don't Understand) and Broere (Brothers). He won many important children's book awards in the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries. In 2019 he was the winner of the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Abstracts and Bios

Here you will find the abstracts and bios of all key note speakers and panelists.

Practical Information


At walking distance from Tilburg University:

City Center:

Other hotels in Tilburg:

Conference Venue

Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
The specific building will be announced soon.

Campus map

Getting to Tilburg University

Route description

Organizing Committee


Helma van Lierop-Debrauwer
Helma van Lierop-Debrauwer has been professor of children’s literature since 1998. Together with Neel Bastiaansen-Harks she published a book about adolescent novels in literature education in 2005. In 2014 she edited a history on Dutch children’s literature, together with Rita Ghesquiere and Vanessa Joosen. Since 2011 she coordinates the children’s literature master at Tilburg University. This university is also one of the partners in the Erasmus Mundus International Master Children’s Literature, Media and Culture, which will start in September 2019. She is chair of the Dutch IBBY-section. Her research interests are, among other things, girl’s literature, adolescent literature, age studies, and life writing.


Jane McVeigh
Dr. Jane McVeigh is Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of English & Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton. Jane’s research includes life writing, archive studies, and early to mid-twentieth century women writers and dual audience literature. She is currently writing a literary life, Richmal Crompton, Author of Just William (Palgrave, forthcoming 2022). Her current publications include In Collaboration with British Literary Biography: Haunting Conversations (Palgrave 2017) and two chapters in an edited collection, A Companion to Literary Biography (Wiley 2019).

Monica Soeting
Monica Soeting studied philosophy in Tübingen and Amsterdam, and received PhDs from the University of Maastricht and the University of Groningen. She was chief-editor of the Dutch journal Biografie Bulletin, and in 2008 co-founded the European chapter of the International Auto/Biography Association. In 2012, she co-founded the European Journal of Life Writing, a peer reviewed, open access e-journal of which she is one of the journal managers. In 2017 she published a biography of Cissy van Marxveldt (1889-1948), a writer of popular books for girls and young women. She works as a critic for the Dutch newspaper Trouw and is presently researching a biography of Dutch Queen Emma.

Contact Us

If you have questions about practicalities, please contact Carine Zebedee.

If you have questions about content, please contact Helma van Lierop-Debrauwer.

Visiting address Tilburg Campus:

Tilburg University
Warandelaan 2
5037 AB Tilburg
The Netherlands