Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Mapping LivesThe Uses of Biography$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Peter France and William St Clair

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263181

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263181.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 04 July 2022

The Newness of the ‘New Biography’: Biographical Theory and Practice in the Early Twentieth Century

The Newness of the ‘New Biography’: Biographical Theory and Practice in the Early Twentieth Century

(p.193) 11 The Newness of the ‘New Biography’: Biographical Theory and Practice in the Early Twentieth Century
Mapping Lives

Laura Marcus

British Academy

The dominance of modernist and avant-garde literature in the early decades of the twentieth century directed attention away from certain texts and genres. Biography was one of the genres that underwent transformation. In the 1920s and 1930s, it took new forms, which gave rise to an unprecedented popularity of life-writing. This rise in the popularity of biographies was linked to the perception that they had been reinvented, requiring a new level of critical self-awareness. This chapter discusses biographical theory and practice in the early twentieth century. This biographical dimension crossed national boundaries wherein common biographical tenets were developed. In this period, the concept of ‘new biography’ proliferated. This new concept of biographies was grounded on the relationship between the literary and the scientific, and the importance of the study of the character. In the chapter, the tenets and characteristics of the ‘new biography’ and the ‘new biographers’ are considered. It examines the new equality between the biographer and the subject; the brevity, selection, and attention to the form and unity associated with fiction; the development of central motifs in a life and of a key to personality; and the focus on the character rather than the events.

Keywords:   1920s and 1930s, new forms, biographical theory, biographical practice, early twentieth century, biographical tenets, new biography, new biographers, new equality, attention to form

British Academy Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.