School of Humanities and Social Science
HISTORY SEMINAR SERIES – 2008
‘Three Questions for Biographers: Public or Private? Individual or Society? Truth or Beauty?’
Adjunct-Professor Susan Magarey, University of Adelaide
Friday, 31 October
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)
Cultural Collections Reading Room (near the Information Common),
Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus
At the end of 2007, Wakefield Press published Roma the First: A Biography of Dame Roma Mitchell on which Kerrie Round and I had worked for the previous five years. It is presently being re-printed, and that prompts me to reflect on three questions that arose during our research and writing.
The first question – public or private? – arose because Justice Mitchell’s Associates would not talk to us about her. They seemed to assume that biographers set out to discover secrets about their subject’s personal – read ‘sex’ – life and then publish them for intrusive and possibly damaging judgement. The second question – individual or society? – arose when we encountered a view that the relationship between biography and social history is a ‘new’ area of inquiry. The third – truth or beauty? – concerns ways in which biographers may shape their material in order to bring their readers to the clearest understanding of their subject.
Susan Magarey, Founder of the Magarey Medal for Biography, Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for pioneering Women’s Studies as an academic field, Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Founding Editor of Australian Feminist Studies (1985-2005) has written or edited eleven books and sixty articles or book chapters, most recently ‘The Sexual Revolution: Women’s Liberation Lesson One’ in Australian Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Dialogue, forthcoming, 2008, and ‘When it changed: the beginnings of Women’s Liberation in Australia’ in David Roberts and Martin Crotty (eds), Turning Points in Australian History (UNSW Press), Sydney, 2008.
Staff, students and members of the public are welcome