'Prominent British biographer Hermione Lee declares that "the telling of narrative life-stories is the dominant mode of our times" (17). But how much does an individual life matter? How and where should its significance be weighed? In beginning work on a biography of the Australian writer Dorothy Hewett, some of the epistemological problems inherent in the genre have manifested with perhaps predictable force. Despite (or perhaps as an effect of) its booming success as a contemporary form of history, biography remains troubled by assumptions about the role of the singular subject in the national/ historical frame, and these assumptions can play out in ways that render idiosyncratic, or even illegible, non-conformist forms of living that may contest the dominant narrative of an age. When one puts together the terms cosmopolitanism, women, and biography, the questions at issue become concentrated through the valencies of place. Where is it that lives are made legible? Where do we locate the frames through which individual lives become representative, distinctive, or significant? Is biography as a mode of history dependent on older forms of belonging that globalisation's new world order is rendering unviable? To make narrative, do lives need to be contained by familiarised space and time? Does biography need the nation state?'
'Almost twenty years after her death, no biography of Australian poet and librettist Gwen Harwood (1920-1995) has been published, despite her having been hailed by one of her peers as "the outstanding Australian poet of the twentieth century." Harwood published over four hundred works in her lifetime, wrote a series of libretti, and received several prominent literary awards. Two biographers have abandoned the task in the face of restrictions imposed by Harwood's literary executor, her son John Harwood; and these restrictions continue to thwart would-be biographers. The two published collections of Harwood's personal letters focus on her male friendships, thus contributing to often prurient speculation regarding Harwood's private life and the inspiration for her writing. The lack of a biography has compounded this, while the omissions, elisions and evasions in the published letters-that most malleable of genres-reveal the pitfalls of reading such edited collections as a form of epistolary autobiography.'
'This interview took place on the Claflin University campus in Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA, on Wednesday, 16 September 2015. Students from Dr Belinda Wheeler's GNST 303/ ENGL 303 Introduction to Gender Studies class interviewed Dr Leane. Students read Purple Threads and Dr Wheeler's earlier interview with Dr Leane in preparation for this interview.
'The participants in the interview were as follows: Dr Jeanine Leane, Dr Belinda Wheeler, Ms Kimberly Broughton, Ms Jennifer Clark, Mr Malcolm Jones, Ms Nidja Muldrow, and Mr Damon Williams.'