Spring School Masterclass

Presented by the Art Writing Postgraduate Programme (MLitt), School of Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA)

Thursday 7 – Friday 8 April 2022 (on Zoom)



This Open Masterclass will focus on creative approaches to biographical, memoir, and life-writing. Presented by artists and academics from the GSA Art Writing programme and invited guests including Kate Briggs (This Little Art, Fitzcarraldo Editions), Paul Mendez (Rainbow Milk, Dialogue Books), Stephen Sutcliffe (Much Obliged, Book Works and at Fifty, Sternberg Press) and others, this workshop will draw on alternative modes of biographical writing including autofiction, mythobiography, New Narrative, fictocriticism and epistolary or diaristic forms of art writing.

The Masterclass is aimed at arts students, artists, filmmakers, curators, critics, producers, historians, musicians, and writers of all forms with an interest in art and writing. It may be of particular interest to undergraduates and recently graduated students keen to advance interdisciplinary practices in a creative academic environment at a higher level. It is also suitable for those at an early stage of writing. During the workshop participants will be supported to advance new work, implement methods introduced, and receive feedback from the contributors.

In Audre Lorde’s 1982 Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, ‘biomythography’ was proposed as a new (auto)biographical form ‘combining elements of history, biography and myth’. Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, published in 1987, was a cross-genre, multi-lingual work combining poetry, theory and philosophy, similarly based ‘loosely’ on the author’s own life. In The Red Parts (2007), a biographical story detailing the murder of her aunt, Maggie Nelson wrote of falling out of a story, of the story. Numerous examples, among them Fernando Pessoa, James Baldwin, Robert Glück, Gary Indiana, Peter Handke, Dodie Bellamy, Édouard Louis, Annie Ernaux, Deborah Levy, Eileen Myles and Chris Kraus, demonstrate that the (auto)biographical is not absolute, that it is, by necessity, provisional, unanchored and contingent. As Eileen Myles has declared, biographical writing is ‘of course about me’ as much as it is about the ostensible ‘subject’. Biomythography, ‘biographical fictioning’ and related approaches allow writers to generate radically subjective narratives in response to ‘real’ or ‘factual’ historical and contemporary events in their own lives and the lives of others (both real and imagined). Such approaches allow writers to control the extent and manner of self-exposure and negotiate complex ethical considerations through the adoption of the guises, slippages, diversions and decoys characteristic of quasi-biography.

Led by writer, editor and Art Writing Programme Leader Dr Laura Haynes, the Spring School Masterclass will include a series of presentations and practical workshops in which participants will work with established and emergent writers, artists and academics as part of an intensive writing workshop to learn, develop and apply expansive and alternative modes of biographical writing and/or visual practice. The workshop will support participants to compose, experience and evaluate new writing as part of an iterative learning experience. The skills developed will include writing short form essay, critical writing and creative fiction/non-fiction and publishing/readership knowledge exchange (detailed below).

Applications are open to all but will be allocated on a first come, first served basis so early booking is recommended. The Masterclass will be conducted in English and participants are recommended to have Academic 6.5 IELTS score to benefit from the workshop. The Masterclass will be held on Zoom between the hours of 10.00 – 18.00 GMT, so participants will need to ensure they have access to this platform.

The Biographical Fictioning workshop is presented by the Master of Letters Programme (MLitt) Art Writing in the School of Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art. This one-year interdisciplinary, studio-based, writing programme is housed in the School of Fine Art’s new Stow Building and offers students the opportunity to develop expansive and innovative modes of writing about, with and as art. The programme offers full and part-time pathways.

Please access this link to register.

£60 for both days
There are a number of subsidised places available upon application.

Queries to Silas Lehane, s.lehane@gsa.ac.uk


Biographical Fictioning will support you to:

  1. generate and/or advance writing practice
  2. develop confidence and effectively share strategies, methods across disciplinary fields
  3. articulate research and practice across multiple creative forms
  4. identify multiple readerships
  5. learn about Art Writing as an interdisciplinary academic subject at postgraduate level
  6. support portfolio development for postgraduate application

The Masterclass will enact relevant discourses, practices and models of creative biographical writing including:

  1. anecdotal theory and autotheory: the lived life as ‘exemplary case’ (Peter Handke)
  2. translation as biographical practice (Kate Briggs)
  3. biography as negotiation between ‘authenticity’, ‘truth’ and ‘mediation’
  4. histories of reparative reading and rewriting 
  5. ethics of remembering, forgetting and interpretation
  6. intersubjective writing: alter-egos, personas, in-personation (Jane Gallop) and heteronyms (Fernando Pessoa)
  7. aestheticisation of experience: biography as narrativisation, or lyricism, of the particular and collective 


Kate Briggs is writer and translator based in Rotterdam. Author of This Little Art (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017) and translator of two volumes of Roland Barthes’s lecture and seminar notes at the Collège de France: The Preparation of the Novel and How to Live Together, both published by Columbia University Press. Her forthcoming novel The Long Form, will be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2023.

Esther Draycott is a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities funded PhD researcher working within GSA’s School of Design. A graduate of MLitt Art Writing and current Teaching Assistant for the programme, Esther is also associate editor of Nothing Personal, a Glasgow-based art publication.

Rebecca Fortnum, Professor of Fine Art, artist and writer, is Head of School of Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art. Her work concerns women artists and contemporary painting. Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words was published by IB Tauris/Macmillan in 2007.

Laura Haynes is leader of the Art Writing masters programme at The Glasgow School of Art and an editorial director of MAP, an artist-led publishing and production project. Her doctoral work was concerned with autotheory and biomythography (Audre Lorde) as a poetics for critique and studied the lives of Chantal Akerman (1950-2015), Doris Lessing (1919-2013), Agnes Martin (1912-2004) and Tillie Olsen (1912-2007). 

Alice Hill-Woods is a current MLitt Art Writing student writing an (auto)biographical fiction on Anne-Eva Bergman. Alice is the poetry and non-fiction editor at SPAM zine & Press.

Fiona Jardine trained in Fine Art and teaches in the School of Design at The Glasgow School of Art. Supervised by Professor John Roberts, her doctoral work focussed on interrogating the materiality and temporality of artists’ signatures. Her research is concerned with the creative and critical construction of Post-war Scottish craft, textile and fashion narratives, with an emphasis on the materialisation of place within those.

Paul Mendez is novelist, essayist and screenwriter based in London. Rainbow Milk (Dialogue Books, 2020), his semi-autobiographical debut novel, narrates the life of Jesse, a Black working class gay man raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in the Black Country. He is currently studying MA Black British Fiction at Goldsmith’s.

Sara O’Brien is a writer based in Glasgow and recent graduate of MLitt Art Writing. Sara’s Master’s Project, Cascadence, was anchored in the story of a female character who travels to the coastal town of Burntisland, Scotland, to carry out biographical research into Mary Somerville, a 19th century mathematician, astronomer and polymath. Sara was awarded the GSA Foulis Medal 2021 for outstanding achievement.

Stephen Sutcliffe is an artist based in Glasgow. His film works are collaged from an archive of personally collated materials. Much Obliged (Book Works, 2019), assembles loosely connected reminiscences, each with reference to ‘Stephen’.

Susannah Thompson, Professor of Contemporary Art and Criticism, is Head of Doctoral Studies at The Glasgow School of Art. Her research concerns contemporary art history and visual culture, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary and feminist approaches to art writing, criticism/post-criticism, art historical writing and fiction / literature and/in/as art. 


Illustrations by Kate Timney