Shapers of Modern Biography
|dc.description.abstract||Originally published in 1989. In this companion volume to the acclaimed Pure Lives, Reed Whittemore probes the often-complex motives behind the relationships of modern biographers to their subjects. Whittemore's description of biography's uneven path toward comprehensive character study begins with Thomas Carlyle, whose biography of Frederick the Great broke with tradition by tracing the roots of its subject's character to childhood trauma. (A strict disciplinarian, Frederick's father once considered having his rebellious teenage son executed.) Whittemore examines the work of Leslie Stephen, the Dictionary of National Biography's first editor, who admired Carlyle but disliked his style—and was convinced that Carlyle disliked him. And in a chapter on Sigmund Freud, Whittemore traces the revolution in writing biography that began with Freud's speculations on the nature and origin of Leonardo da Vinci's homosexuality. Few have escaped Freud's influence. While Leon Edel argues that biographers should not psychoanalyze their subjects, his biography of Henry James does precisely that. Richard Ellman tempers his impulse for Freudian probing of Joyce, Yeats, and Oscar Wilde with the explication of their often difficult works. Kenneth Lynn's recent biography of Hemingway takes the opposite approach. "The Hemingway industry," Whittemore explains, "is like Marilyn Monroe's in having much of the sensational in it, including suicide, so that the problems of having to deal with Hemingway as a writer, good or bad, can always be put on the back burner for a few chapters while Hemingway the braggart and liar performs." Thomas Parton and Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Erik Erikson and Martin Luther, biographers and their subjects continue to engage our attention. Whole Lives offers an informative—and refreshingly informal—look at one of the most enduringly popular genres.|
|dc.subject.classification||bic Book Industry Communication::D Literature & literary studies::DS Literature: history & criticism::DSA Literary theory|
|dc.title.alternative||Shapers of Modern Biography|
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