Contact us

Life Writing Research Program
Room HSH-301
Ho Sing Hang Building
Lingnan University
8 Castle Peak Road
Tuen Mun
N.T.
Hong Kong
Ph.  (852)2616-7790
Fax: (852)2461-5270
Michael INGHAM, Director: ingham@ln.edu.hk

Judy Ho, Deputy Director: judywyho@ln.edu.hk

Ms Chun-ngar Hui, Secretary: joycehui@ln.edu.hk

 

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The Lingnan University Life Writing Research Program

What is the Field of Life Writing?

Life writing is a field devoted to the study and creation of narratives which focus on individual lives.

Now a large and vibrant international field, life writing includes the writing and study of autobiography, biography, oral history, journals, letters, journalistic profiles, autobiographical filmmaking and much else. 

Establishment of the Lingnan University Life Writing Research Program

Founded in June 2007 with support from President Edward Chen, the Lingnan University Life Writing Research Program (LWRP) aims to establish Lingnan as an international centre for studies in Eastern and Western life writing.  Though based in the English Department, LWRP is an interdisciplinary facility which welcomes participation from and collaboration with all areas of the university.  LWRP is designed to serve Lingnan's mission as a Liberal Arts university and its commitment to community service. 

Activities | top

The Program's activities include:

 Structure | top

The Management Committee comprises:

The Director reports to the Dean and through the Dean to the President.

Research Concentrations | top

LWRP encourages research and discussion in all domains of life writing, but especially: (1) Asia-Pacific life writing; (2) life writing in academic disciplines, principally Literary Studies, Linguistic Studies, Cultural Studies, Philosophy, Visual Studies and Sociology; (3) life writing and ageing, in collaboration with Lingnan's Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies; (4) life narratives in the Atomic Age; (5) life writing and Service-Learning. 

Staff Research Interests | top

Carol Archer, Assistant Professor in Visual Studies, has discussed the articulation of artistic identity and presence in paintings by Judy Watson, Cai Jin and Marlene Dumas. Her ongoing interviews with contemporary Macao artists inform her current work on the value of personal narratives of artistic process and development. Archer’s collaborative and individual art projects, in so far as they explore the relations between self and place, connect to life-writing themes and issues.

Peter Baehr, Chair Professor of Social Theory, has a special interest in social and political writers. His work focuses on the manner in which authorial dialogue is complicated and enriched by commitments (e.g. loyalties) neither party wishes to state explicitly. The result is a mode of evasion that, nonetheless, falls short of downright dishonesty. Baehr locates this ‘grammar of prudence’, as he calls it, in the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers. He has a related interest in the concepts of ‘decency’ and ‘callousness’, especially as revealed in the novel and historical narrative.

Alfred Chan is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy and Director of the Lingnan Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies.  His research interests include narratives of ageing, life course narratives, health care narratives, oral history and cross-cultural aging studies.

Eugene Eoyang, Chair Professor of Humanities, has explored autobiography and biography in several studies on the self and in a number of personal essays, most notably, "The Solitary Boat: Images of the Self in Chinese Nature Poetry," Journal of Asian Studies 32:4 (1973), 593-621; "'When I find myself, what do I find, and who did the looking?’ -- Intercultural Challenges to the Self", in: The ‘I’ of the Beholder: Prolegomena to the Study of Self (Provo: Intercultural Studies Committee, 2000), pp. 51-69; and Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity from a Minority of One (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).

Richard Freadman, Chair Professor of English, has published three books in the field of life writing: Threads of Life: Autobiography and the Will (Chicago, 2001); Shadow of Doubt: My Father and Myself (Bystander, 2003); and This Crazy Thing a Life: Australian Jewish Autobiography (University of Western Australia Press, 2007).  His published articles in the field include the following topics: biographies of philosophers; recognition and autobiography; biographies of deceiving subjects; discussions of postmodern readings of autobiography; theories of life writing; teaching life writing; Australian autobiography.

Andrew Goatly, Professor of English, plans to investigate the importance and distinctiveness of metaphors in life-writing, concentrating on the ways in which metaphors are used to conceptualize and express emotion and to represent the writer's persona.

Carol Hart, Assistant Professor of English, is researching the personal testimonies of atomic bomb survivors. The two main Hiroshima Survivors’ Associations – Genbaku Higanisha Shogen no Tsudoi (The Atom Bomb Victims’ Assembly for Witnessing), and o Kataru Kai (The Hiroshima Narrating/Retelling Society) – have provided the occasion for survivors to tell their stories.  This research examines the ways in which the survivors’ recuperations of oral storytelling traditions not only contest, but correct, previously uncontested traditional national and justifying narratives.

Mette Hjort, Professor of Visual Studies, discusses literary autobiography in The Strategy of Letters (Harvard, 1993), with reference to questions of self-deception, particularly concerning the 18th century writer Ludvig Holberg. She is currently working on flamboyant risk taking in contemporary documentary cinema, an area of cinematic production that tends to involve dramatic self-stagings and experimentation on the very boundary of fiction and non-fiction.

Judy Ho, Associate Professor of English, studies narratives of personal experience and the social and cultural contexts in which they are constructed. Adopting a crosslinguistic and crosscultural approach, she is currently investigating the Chinese and English emotional expressions in autobiographical narratives produced by Hong Kong bilinguals. Her publications include Narrative Writing in Australian and Chinese Schools: A Study of Text in Context (Bern: Peter Lang, 2002), "Metaphorical Construction of Self in Teachers’ Narratives", in Language and Education, Vol. 19, Issue 5, pp. 359 -379, Sep 2005, and "Language in conflict: a study of teacher-student conflicts.", in International Journal of the Humanities, Vol. 2, Issue 1, pp. 37-44, Oct. 2005.

Mike Ingham, Associate Professor of English and theatre director, is currently researching ways in which drama and life writing intersect. Hong Kong writers of Chinese and English opt for a semi-autobiographical mode of writing that flits freely across the borders between fiction and memoir. In the mode of dramatic performance as text Hong Kong has more recently distinguished itself in respect of life writing. Veronica Needa's autobiographical monodrama Face (performed in both English and Cantonese by the writer), Dino Mahoney's and Simon Wu's radio drama memoir Looking for Stones and Amy Chan and Janet Tam's Two Girls from Ngau Tau Kok (another bilingually performed text) are all recent examples of Hong Kong's predilection for the unusual form of autobiographical drama. There are rare (and more oblique) instances of such practice in better-known dramatists such as Alan Bennett and Wendy Wasserstein, but Hong Kong's less developed and less self-consciously literary drama scene appears to be naturally drawn to this innovative genre of dramatic writing.

Sophia Law, Assistant Professor of Visual Studies, is interested in the therapeutic nature of art as well as the early visual and cultural history of Hong Kong. In researching the expressive and healing power of art, she is currently working on 800 images done by the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong detention camps in the late 1980s. In collaboration with Garden Streams, she organized an exhibition called C.A.R.E. (Vietnamese Community Art Re-Encountered) at the Lingnan Art Gallery in April 2008 where more than 200 images of artworks done by the Vietnamese boat people twenty years ago were displayed. The theme of the exhibition was "Art in Adversity". It showed how images can narrate one's tragedy when language fails. Her second research interest involves a series of interviews with elder people concerning local Hong Kong art and culture before 1970s.

Lisa Leung, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, is currently working on research (funded by CERG) which examines the dynamics of cultural negatiation among ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. She will conduct oral history interviews, especially with the Nepalese, Pakistani and Indian communities to help visibilize the voice of diaspora in the territory. She will encourage minority subjects to write their own diaries and memoirs to help trace the life histories of their families across generations. Through her connection with local human rights groups Leung will also carry out similar projects with mainland Chinese women immigrants, examining the problems of cultural stereotyping and (possibly) discrimination in Hong Kong.

Leung Ping-kwan, Chair Professor of Chinese and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research, has published more than ten volumes of poems, including bilingual editions such as City at the End of Time (1982), Foodscape (1997), Clothink (1998) and Travelling with a Bitter Melon(2002). He also writes fiction and autobiography and has published a novel and four collections of stories, with a selection in English translation, Islands and Continents, by HKU Press. He was awarded The Hong Kong Urban Council's Biennial Award for Literature in 1991 (Fiction) and 1997 (Poetry).  He teaches literature and film studies at Lingnan University and has published critical works such as Hong Kong Culture (1995) and Hong Kong Literature and Cinema(2003).

Paisley Livingstone, Chair Professor of Philosophy, has written various books and papers in philosophical aesthetics, literary theory, cinema studies, and philosophical psychology. He has written about issues related directly and indirectly to life writing in the work of Ingmar Bergman, Karen Blixen, Virginia Woolf, Theodore Dreiser, Franz Kafka, and various other figures.

Meaghan Morris, Chair Professor of Cultural Studies, has been working for many years on a biography of Ernestine Hill (born Hemmings, 1899-1972) who was, during her life-time, one of Australia's best known writers. She is largely forgotten by literary critics today, but Hill was a key figure in the mid-twentieth century emergence of popular media culture in Australia. She played an active role in shaping debate about the great public issues of her day, especially the status of Aboriginal peoples, immigration from Asia, and the state's role in national development. She promoted nation-building schemes, and wrote “action” stories about them to capture the popular imagination: The Great Australian Loneliness (1937) and The Territory (1951) are still read today. An intelligent and sensitive writer, she was also in much of her work an ‘ordinary’ colonialist who translated into national folklore a romantic vision of pioneering; a chronicler of the achievements of Aboriginal and Chinese as well as white women, she showed no sympathy for “women's issues” as defined by urban feminists, then or now.

David Phillips is Chair Professor of Social Policy and Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences.  His research interests include aging and adaptation narratives, narratives of care, oral history, and cross-cultural aging studies.

Alastair Sharp, Associate Professor of English, is interested in pedagogic applications of life writing, particularly the use of interviews as a tutorial activity. 

 Teaching | top

LWRP will help coordinate the English Department's academic courses in life writing.  At present there is one such course, Writing Your Life, which is offered in years two and three.  The first year subject, Models of Speech and Writing, includes a section on journal writing, as does the department's Study Abroad Program.  LWRP will liaise with the recently founded English Writing Project and with the English Language Education and Assessment Centre in analyzing and devising new ways of assisting with student writing difficulties.  LWRP will participate in international video conferencing conversations between Lingnan and other students, through the Lingnan Teaching and Learning Centre.

A particular focus will be the creation of a rich research and discussion environment which will attract and benefit research students at all levels, and perhaps lay the foundations for courses which will be offered direct to the public.

The Service-Learning reflective seminar | top

This seminar is intended for Final Year Project students, postgraduates and other students working in the area of Service-Learning.  Chaired by senior staff from the Office of Service-Learning and the LWRP, the seminar is designed to assist students to use life writing narrative methods in describing Service-Learning projects and experiences.

 Links | top

LWRP has links with the following life writing centres elsewhere:

LWRP is a participating member of the International Auto/Biography Association (iaba) <http://iaba.org.cn/>, a large international body of life writing authors and scholars.  It will receive and disseminate information through the iaba web link <iaba-l@HAWAII.EDU>, a network with over 500 life writing scholars and writers worldwide.

 Seminars, conferences, presentations by visiting scholars and writers | top

Other collaborative activities | top

A visit by staff and students from Sun-yat Sen University in April 2009 to commence a collaborate life writing project between these students and some of their Lingnan counterparts. The project will involve interviews, writing of life stories and perhaps the production of an anthology of biographical pieces.

Forthcoming | top