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Biography: A Very Short Introduction by…
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Biography: A Very Short Introduction (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Hermione Lee

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Member:carl.rollyson
Title:Biography: A Very Short Introduction
Authors:Hermione Lee
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Biography: A Very Short Introduction by Hermione Lee (2009)

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This is a competent survey of biography by one of the contemporary masters of the genre. But it is rather dull and surprisingly textbook-like, lacking the verve and sweep of Nigel Hamilton’s recent Biography: A Brief History. Lee limits herself to British biography, except for the unavoidable references to classics such as Plutarch. Chapter titles are not very helpful, and the bibliography omits several recent efforts to deal with both the history and methodology of biography. As a literary biographer Lee concentrates mainly on that narrow range of the genre. And yet with the small font this book is not quite so short as all that. Nevertheless, topics such as Freud’s influence on biography, the disputes about the veracity of life writing, and why the telling of lives excites so much hostility and controversy, are essayed in informative and succinct fashion. Consulted as a reference book, Lee’s work can be a valuable resource for beginners as well as advanced scholars. Lee’s own approach to biography seems entirely conventional, which makes her shy away from more daring psychoanalytical approaches pioneered by Leon Edel and George Painter. ( )
1 vote carl.rollyson | Nov 5, 2012 |
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Biography is often compared to some other kind of thing, as though it is difficult to fix it within a neat, single definition.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0199533547, Paperback)

Biography: Questions for Consideration and Discussion

Do you think there can be set rules for biography?

What do you think are the particular challenges of writing literary biography?

Do you think biography should tell the whole truth?

What do you think is the relationship between different kinds of “life-writing”: diaries, memoirs, letters, autobiography, biography?

Could you have a biography of a river, or a city, or a disease?

Do you think men’s and women’s lives have been written about in different ways, and if so, why?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:56 -0400)

Lee considers the cultural and historical background of different types of biographies, looks at the factors that affect biographers, and asks whether there are different strategies, ethics, and principles required for writing about one person compared to another. She also discusses contemporary biographical publications and considers what kind of "lives" are the most popular and in demand. And along the way, she answers such questions as why do certain people and historical events arouse so much interest? How can biographies be compared with history and works of fiction? Does a biography need to be true? Is it acceptable to omit or conceal things? Does the biographer need to personally know the subject? Must a biographer be subjective?… (more)

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