Read e-book online Biography and the Question of Literature in France PDF

By Ann Jefferson

ISBN-10: 0199270848

ISBN-13: 9780199270842

This publication takes a clean examine the kinfolk among literature and biography by way of tracing the heritage in their connections via 300 years of French literature. the place to begin for this background is the eighteenth century while the time period "biography" first entered the French language and whilst the notice "literature" started to gather its smooth feel of writing marked through a classy personality. Arguing that the belief of literature is inherently open to revision and contestation, Ann Jefferson examines the way biographically-orientated texts were engaged in wondering the definition of literature. while, she tracks the evolving sorts of biographical writing in French tradition, and proposes a reappraisal of biography in phrases not just of its types, but additionally of its functions.Although Ann Jefferson's ebook has robust theoretical implications for either biography and the literary, it really is in the beginning a historical past, providing a complete new account of the improvement of French literature via this twin concentrate on the query of literature and at the family members among literature and biography. It deals unique readings of significant authors and texts within the mild of those matters, starting with Rousseau and finishing with "life-writing" modern authors similar to Pierre Michon and Jacques Roubaud. different authors mentioned comprise Mme de St?el, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Baudelaire, Nerval, Mallarm?, Schwob, Proust, Gide, Leiris, Sartre, Genet, Barthes, and Roger Laporte.

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Over and above the view of literature as inherently self-questioning, I should make it clear that while it matters that the biographical texts considered should narrate the lives of people who really lived, the literary status of the written biography is largely irrelevant to my concerns: the question of literature here will not primarily be a question about the literary character of any given biographical text. Neither is there any need for the biographical subject to be a writer. Although several of the cases I shall discuss are generally regarded as being part of the literary canon, and although I shall be looking at a number of texts in which the biographical subject is indeed a writer, these factors might best be considered as contributing to a focus on the issue of literariness, without, however, being necessary to that project.

Nevertheless, this collision would not have been possible without what went before, and I shall therefore prepare the ground by briefly mapping out the parallel paths that literature and biography took prior to this point, and outline the pre-history of their relations. As I have already indicated, the distinctiveness of the literary field was achieved partly as a result of authorial biography, and in what follows I shall be looking at the particular forms that these biographies took in the two centuries that preceded the invention of the term biography itself.

Exemplarity continues to inform biography, if only as the reason for selecting a given biographical subject or in the relation between narrator and protagonist, which is implicitly one of admiration or celebration. To this I would add a further feature of biography that contributes to its pragmatic capacity, and that is its liminality. Biography is traditionally a liminal genre: it is, in the broadest sense, a textual coda to a lived existence; and, as I have just said, it has also operated traditionally as a device preparing its readers for improvement in their own lives.

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Biography and the Question of Literature in France by Ann Jefferson


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