Biography: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, Jul 9, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 170 pages
Hermione Lee is one of the leading literary biographers in the English-speaking world, the author of widely acclaimed lives of Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf. Now, in this Very Short Introduction, Lee provides a magnificent look at the genre in which she is an undisputed master--the art of biography. Here 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?
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
 

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User Review  - carl.rollyson - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

Contents

1 The Biography Channel
1
2 Exemplary Lives
19
3 Warts and All
39
4 National Biography
54
5 Fallen Idols
72
6 Against Biography
93
7 Public Roles
101
8 Telling the Story
122
References
141
Bibliography
163
Index
167
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About the author (2009)

Hermoine Lee is a well-known literary biographer, author of critical studies of Elizabeth Bowen, Willa Cather, and Philip Roth. She has also written major biographies of Virginia Woolf (1996), and Edith Wharton (2007), a selection of which was published by Princeton University Press asVirginia Woolf's Nose (2005). From 1998 to 2008 she was the Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature and a Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford. She is now President of Wolfson College.

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