Princeton University Public Lectures Series

J. Edward Farnum Lectures

Hermione Lee Oxford University

September 27
Shelley’s Heart and Pepys’s Lobsters
(McCosh 50)

September 28
Jane Austen Faints
McCosh 10)

September 29
Virginia Woolf’s Nose
(McCosh 50)

As readers, we are increasingly fascinated by life stories and ways of telling them. In these three lectures, Professor Hermione Lee is thinking about different approaches to "life writing": the relation of biography to fiction and history; the exploration of writers' lives in connection with their works; and the new and changing ways in which biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies can be discussed. "Shelley's Heart and Pepys's Lobsters" looks at two contrasting lives, those of Shelley and Pepys, in order to talk about myths, contested objects and things that go missing in a life story. "Jane Austen Faints" takes several different accounts of the same dramatic moment in Jane Austen's life to ask how biography deals with the private lives of famous women, a theme taken up in "Virginia Woolf's Nose", which looks at the way that Woolf's life-stories have been transformed into fiction and film. These lectures are intended to raise questions about every aspect of writing, and reading, a life.

Hermione Lee is a Fellow of New College, Oxford and the first woman Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at Oxford University. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, of the Royal Society of Literature, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was awarded the CBE for services to literature in 2003. Her own critical and biographical studies include Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Roth, Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up, and her major biography of Virginia Woolf, published by Knopf in 1997. During the academic year 2004-5 she is a visiting fellow at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library, where she is working on a new biography of Edith Wharton.

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About the J. Edward Farnum Fund

"Founded [in 1939] by a bequest of George L. Farnum of the Class of 1894 in memory of his brother, J. Edward Farnum of the Class of 1890, 'for the purpose of providing lectures from time to time by men of prominence not connected with the University'."

Lecturers have included John Gielgud on "Readings from Shakespeare" (1946-1947); V. S. Pritchett on "Conversation in the English Novel" (1953-1954); Isaiah Berlin on "DeMaistre and the Origins of Fascism" (1962-1963); Roland de Vaux on "Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Palestine and the Old Testament" (1964-1965); and Eleanor Holmes Norton on "The New Equality" (1974-1975). Farnum, who died in 1917, was an explorer for whom "strange people and customs held a fascination." In 1897 he traveled from Pekin to Vladivostok, "700 miles of which had never before been traversed by a European." So reported the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 1941.