Writers and writers’ organisations have persistently used their public standing and ‘cultural capital’ to promote causes that transcend the literary sphere, from abolition and gender equality to free expression, anti-war agitation, and environmental issues. This panel explores the political impact of authorship in an age of celebrity advocacy and how this impact is shaped by academic institutions, prize-giving bodies, publishing industries, and digital media, specifically focusing on the following questions: What are the strategies employed by writers in the construction and performance of their public personae as activists and intellectuals? How do they negotiate the tension between ethics and aesthetics in their public interventions? How is the interplay of literary celebrity and politics negotiated and articulated across different genres of autobiographical life-writing? What are the potential risks faced by the politically engaged and outspoken writer?
These and related issues will be addressed by David Marshall, Professor of New Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Deakin University, Australia; Rachel Potter, Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of East Anglia and PI on the AHRC-funded “Writers and Free Expression” project; and Kirsty Gunn, acclaimed novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee.