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Literary biography: an introduction

Literary biography: an introduction

Benton, Michael, 1939-

Literary Biography: An Introduction illustrates and accounts for the literary genre that merges historical facts with the conventions of narrative while revealing how the biographical context can enrich the study of canonical authors.  Provides up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of issues and controversies in life writing, a rapidly growing field of study Offers a valuable biographical and historical context for the study of major classic and contemporary authors Features an interview with Wilfred Owen's biographer, Dominic Hibberd; a gallery of literary portraits with commentaries; close readings that illustrate the differences between fiction and biography; speculation about likely future developments; and detailed suggestions for further reading

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English. Electronic books.
Published Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, c2009
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Details

Statement of responsibility: Michael Benton
ISBN: 1444310070, 9781405194464, 9781444310078
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: xx, 253 p. : ill.
Subject: Authors Biography Authorship.; English literature; Biography as a literary form.; Authors, English Biography History and criticism Theory, etc.; Authors; Biography; English prose literature History and criticism Theory, etc.
Reproduction: Electronic reproduction. Dawson Books. Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Other formats: Also available in printed form.

Contents

  1. List of Illustrations xi
  2. Acknowledgements xii
  3. Introduction xiii
  4. 1 Literary Biography Now and Then
  5. The Cinderella of Literary Studies
  6. The Rise and Rise of Literary Biography
  7. Dr Johnson: Biographer, Theorist and Subject
  8. Virginia Woolf: Time, Memory and Identity
  9. 2 Life [Hi]Stories: Telling Tales
  10. Aspects of Narrative
  11. (i) Beginnings: Charlotte Brontë
  12. (ii) Middles: Thomas Hardy
  13. (iii) Endings: Jane Austen
  14. The Naked Biographer
  15. Inventing the Truth
  16. 3 Reading Biography
  17. Biographer, Biography and the Reader
  18. Imagining Blake
  19. Problems of a Hybrid Form
  20. Reading Lessons
  21. 4 Literary Biomythography
  22. Biomythography
  23. Myth-Making: The Brontë Paradigm
  24. (i) Facts: Selection and ‘Spin’
  25. (ii) Fact into Fiction
  26. (iii) Fiction into Myth
  27. (iv) Myth into ‘Faction’
  28. (v) Demythologising the Brontës
  29. Variations on the Theme
  30. (i) Byron
  31. (ii) Dickens
  32. (iii) Sylvia Plath
  33. Conclusions
  34. 5 Inferential Biography: Shakespeare the Invisible Man
  35. Virtual Shakespeares
  36. (i) The Facts
  37. (ii) The Theatrical Context
  38. (iii) The Social Context
  39. (iv) The Shakespeare Mythos
  40. (v) The Shakespeare Canon
  41. The Implied Author: Inferential Biography
  42. (i) The Art of Love: The Sonnets
  43. (ii) Prejudice, Discrimination and the Law: The Merchant of Venice
  44. (iii) War and the Politics of Nationhood: Henry V
  45. (iv) Language and Thinking: Hamlet
  46. (v) Art and Artifice: The Tempest
  47. The Limits of Imagination
  48. 6 Literary Biography and Portraiture
  49. Sister Arts
  50. (i) Biography and Portraiture: Reynolds’s Portrait of Dr Johnson
  51. (ii) Reading the Image: Cassandra Austen’s Sketch of Jane Austen
  52. (iii) Visual Myth-Making: Henry Weekes’s Shelley Monument
  53. (iv) Celebrity Image: Thomas Phillips’s Portrait of Byron in Albanian Dress
  54. (v) Visual Memoir: Joseph Severn’s Portrait of John Keats
  55. (vi) Bardography: The Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare
  56. (vii) The Inner Life: R. W. Buss’s Dickens’s Dream
  57. (viii) Sisters’ Arts: Vanessa Bell’s Portrait of Virginia Woolf
  58. (ix) ‘To prepare a face …’: Patrick Heron’s Portrait of T. S. Eliot
  59. (x) Branwell’s Ghost: Branwell Brontë’s Portrait of his Three Sisters
  60. Art to Order
  61. 7 Comparative Biography: Dickens’s ‘Lives’
  62. The Victorian Dickens
  63. The Modern Dickens
  64. The Post-Modern Dickens
  65. Lives and Times
  66. 8 Literary Auto/Biography
  67. Acts of Self-Creation in Wordsworth and Joyce
  68. Wordsworth’s ‘biographic verse’
  69. Joyce’s ‘artist, like the God of creation’
  70. Masks and Metaphors
  71. 9 Biography in Practice
  72. An Interview with Dominic Hibberd, author of Wilfred Owen: A New Biography
  73. Living with the Subject
  74. Imagining Wilfred
  75. Matters of Life and Death
  76. 10 Authorised Lives
  77. The Life of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry
  78. Bernard Shaw by Michael Holroyd
  79. T. S. Eliot by Peter Ackroyd
  80. Orwell: The Life by D. J. Taylor
  81. Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life by Andrew Motion
  82. Contemporary Lives
  83. 11 Literary Lives: Scenes and Stories
  84. Dinner with Dr Johnson and John Wilkes
  85. Dinner with Mrs Ramsay
  86. Biography and Fiction
  87. 12 Biography and the Future
  88. Select Bibliography
  89. Further Reading
  90. General Bibliography
  91. Index

Author note

Michael Benton is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Southampton. His publications include the highly influential Teaching Literature 9–14 (with Geoff Fox, 1985) and several widely used anthologies of poetry, most notably the Touchstones series (with Peter Benton, various editions 1968–2008). His most recent book was Studies in the Spectator Role: Literature, Painting and Pedagogy (2000).

Reviews

"Last year I was sent Michael Benton's Literary Biography: An Introduction prior to publication, and was happy to supply a recommendation for the dust jacket. I described it then as an "elegant. introduction which is likely to appeal to both established scholars and to the growing number of university students who study the subject at all levels." Having read the book again for the purposes of this review, I am happy to stand by my initial response. Indeed, I would add that the book is sufficiently rich and thoughtful to provide an even more enjoyable and informative reading experience the second time around." (Biography, Summer 2010)

"A general reader with an interest in literature or biography or both will find much of interest here." (M/C Reviews, March 2010)

"Lucid and intelligent." (The Times Literary Supplement, November 2009)

"Provides tutors and students with a useful means of entry to a complex and rapidly developing area of debate."—(Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool)

"I found this book both highly enjoyable and informative. It is simply excellent – very well written, elegant in structure and individual phrasing, a fascinating topic and a provocative introduction to a range of biographies."—(Geoff Fox, Exeter University)

"Last year I was sent Michael Benton's Literary Biography: An Introduction prior to publication, and was happy to supply a recommendation for the dust jacket. I described it then as an "elegant. introduction which is likely to appeal to both established scholars and to the growing number of university students who study the subject at all levels." Having read the book again for the purposes of this review, I am happy to stand by my initial response. Indeed, I would add that the book is sufficiently rich and thoughtful to provide an even more enjoyable and informative reading experience the second time around."—(Katherine Hughes, Biography)

"Brisk and readable … lucid and intelligent"—(Claire Harman, Times Literary Supplement)  

Back cover copy

Literary Biography: An Introduction illustrates and accounts for the literary genre that merges verifiable historical facts with the familiar conventions of narrative. It also reveals how the biographical context can enrich our understanding and appreciation of canonical authors. Thematically linked chapters trace the genre’s development, define its primary characteristics, and illuminate its connections with fiction and portraiture. Further insights are gained by approaching literary biography from historical, comparative, inferential and autobiographical perspectives. Examples are drawn from the mainstream literary canon and include a variety of classical and contemporary authors ranging from Shakespeare, Dickens, Blake and Wordsworth to the Brontës, Hardy, Plath and Larkin. Biographical writers discussed feature both seminal figures such as Johnson, Boswell and Woolf to distinguished present-day biographers including Hermione Lee, Richard Holmes, Peter Ackroyd, Claire Tomalin and Michael Holroyd.

Literary Biography: An Introduction offers an erudite and insightful introduction into the history, theory and practice of the increasingly popular literary genre of life-writing.