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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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Sainte-Beuve: Biography, Criticism, and the Literary

Sainte-Beuve: Biography, Criticism, and the Literary

Chapter:
(p.134) (p.135) 8 Sainte-Beuve: Biography, Criticism, and the Literary
Source:
Mapping Lives
Author(s):

Ann Jefferson

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197263181.003.0009

Biography seemed to have little to offer in comparison to literature itself. From this perspective, it is perceived as being at best marginal to literature, and at worst as antithetical to the literary. This negative relation is predominant in the French tradition, where writers themselves have repeatedly and vehemently protested against what they perceived as extraneous imposition of the ‘life’ onto the literary ‘work’. This chapter addresses whether biography has any critical validity in the study of literary texts, when their prime concern is considered by the critical parti pris and by their authors to be aesthetic. In it, the focus is on Sainte-Beuve, the founder and exemplar of the biological approach to literary criticism. The chapter determines whether and how his method acquired general critical validity, what its critical presuppositions were, and how it conceived of literature and the literary.

Keywords:   biography, literature, literary texts, validity, parti pris, Sainte-Beuve, biological approach, literary criticism

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