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Mapping LivesThe Uses of Biography$
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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

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A Life on Film

A Life on Film

(p.283) 16 A Life on Film
Mapping Lives

Ian Christie

British Academy

During the twentieth century, the concept of ‘total’ representation emerged as an equivalent to Noël Burch's ‘Frankenstein complex’. ‘Total’ representation has taken on the form of omnipresent surveillance, using an all-powerful system or state in a technological extrapolation of the panopticon of Bentham. This chapter discusses the possible relationship – if any – between the exponential rise of audiovisual recording and the development of biography. It is argued that there are closer links between the early twentieth-century revolution in biography and the rise of cinema than might be supposed. The chapter also tries to show that the meaning of biographical film cannot be reduced to simplistic canons of accuracy, since these are more typically allegorical.

Keywords:   total representation, Noël Burch, Frankenstein complex, omnipresent surveillance, development of biography, audiovisual recording, biographical films

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