Sainte-Beuve: Biography, Criticism, and the Literary

Ann Jefferson

in Mapping Lives

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780197263181
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734595 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

Sainte-Beuve: Biography, Criticism, and the Literary

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Biography seemed to have little to offer in comparison to literature itself. From this perspective, it is perceived as being at best marginal to literature, and at worst as antithetical to the literary. This negative relation is predominant in the French tradition, where writers themselves have repeatedly and vehemently protested against what they perceived as extraneous imposition of the ‘life’ onto the literary ‘work’. This chapter addresses whether biography has any critical validity in the study of literary texts, when their prime concern is considered by the critical parti pris and by their authors to be aesthetic. In it, the focus is on Sainte-Beuve, the founder and exemplar of the biological approach to literary criticism. The chapter determines whether and how his method acquired general critical validity, what its critical presuppositions were, and how it conceived of literature and the literary.

Keywords: biography; literature; literary texts; validity; parti pris; Sainte-Beuve; biological approach; literary criticism

Chapter.  10001 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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