Book

Writing Lives

Edited by Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698233
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191803772 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199698233.001.0001
Writing Lives

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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Biography appears to thrive as never before; and there clearly remains a broad readership for literary biography. But the methods and approaches of recent criticism which have contributed rich insights and asked new questions about the ways in which we interrogate and appreciate literature have scarcely influenced biography. Biography as a form has been largely unaffected by either new critical or historical perspectives. For early-modern scholars the biographical model, fashioned as a stable form in the eighteenth century, has been, in some respects, a distorting lens onto early-modern lives. In the Renaissance and early-modern period rather than the biography’s organic and developmental narratives of a coherent subject, lives were written and represented in a bewildering array of textual sites and generic forms. And such lives were clearly imagined and written not to entertain or even simply to inform, but to edify and instruct, to counsel and polemicise. It is only when we understand how early moderns imagined and narrated lives, that is through a full return to history and an exact historicising, that we can newly conceive the meaning of those lives and begin to rewrite their histories free of the imperatives and teleologies of Enlightenment. This book reflects on the problems of writing lives from the various perspectives of their own research and in the form of case studies informed by new questions.

Keywords: biography; literary biography; lives; Enlightenment; biographical model; Renaissance; generic forms; early moderns

Book.  384 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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Table of Contents

Introducing Lives in Writing Lives

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Biography and Modernity in Writing Lives

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An Irregular Life in Writing Lives

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‘Secrets and Lies’ in Writing Lives

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Gossip and Biography in Writing Lives

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Considering the Ancients in Writing Lives

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Painting a Life in Writing Lives

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Two Queens, One Inventory in Writing Lives

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