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By Ann Jefferson

This publication takes a clean examine the relatives among literature and biography by way of tracing the background in their connections via 300 years of French literature. the place to begin for this historical past is the eighteenth century while the time period "biography" first entered the French language and whilst the notice "literature" started to collect its glossy experience of writing marked via a classy personality. Arguing that the assumption of literature is inherently open to revision and contestation, Ann Jefferson examines the best way biographically-orientated texts were engaged in wondering the definition of literature. even as, she tracks the evolving kinds of biographical writing in French tradition, and proposes a reappraisal of biography in phrases not just of its kinds, but additionally of its functions.Although Ann Jefferson's booklet has robust theoretical implications for either biography and the literary, it really is firstly a background, supplying a entire new account of the advance of French literature via this twin specialize in the query of literature and at the kinfolk 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 reminiscent of 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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Extra resources for Biography and the Question of Literature in France

Sample text

3, and passim. I shall return to the issue of exemplarity in Ch. 1 below. 20 Introduction Parallel Lives are explicitly presented as having this purpose, as we shall see in Chapter 1. Historically speaking, then, the representation of lives has never been a disinterested affair, but a practice in which the depiction of a self or a subject has been inseparable from the formation of the self of their subject-reader. In a word, the history of the biographical form reveals it to be endowed with a deeply ingrained pragmatic character.

This primacy of ‘plaine truth’ distinguishes biographical example from poetry, which, because it aims above all to please, ‘doth commonly enrich things by commending them above the starres and their deserving, because the chief intent thereof is to delight’. The moral efficacy of these ‘lives’ can be attributed to their basis in fact and to the uniqueness of each individual whose life is narrated. For these reasons biographical narratives are implicitly opposed to the inventions of poetry, and the force of their example depends here on the active exclusion of literature.

167). In short, biographical narrative, of which Plutarch and Augustine were prime instances in the culture inherited by the early modern period, placed its value principally on the moral effect produced in the reader. Although a condition of this effect is the exclusion of literature, the subsequent history of lives prior to the invention of the terms ‘biographie’ and ‘littérature’ suggests that ‘lives’ retain this pragmatic efficacity as a means, precisely, of contributing to the creation of a distinctive literary field.

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