Is literary biography so widely read for popular, 'prurient' reasons, or for reputable intellectual reasons? Is it of interest only in so far as it illuminates a writer's work? How much can we know about a life, such as Shakespeare's, where the documentation is so scanty? These are amongst the wide range of questions addressed by the seventeen leading biographers and literary critics who have contributed essays to The Art of Literary
Biography.Always a popular genre, biography has become one of the most immediate and accessible modes of writing about literature. In this book, individual literary figures such as Conrad, Huxley, Virginia
Woolf, and the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Lord Rochester are examined. Also addressed is the nature and form of literary biography - the concept of biography as autobiography, the problems the genre poses, the necessity of the ignorance of a biographer, and the literary biographer at work. Richard Holmes, Jon Stallworthy, Hermione Lee, David Bradshaw, and Ann Thwaite are amongst the distinguished contributors to this fascinating and thought-provoking book.
`sprightly collection of essays'
`deftly edited ... the collection as a whole is refreshingly free from the excesses of lit-crit gobbledegook.'
`excellent book of essays'
New Statesman and Society
'a most attractive seminar on the art, or craft, of telling the story of story-tellers' existences'
Valentine Cunningham, The Observer
'the best of these writers highlight what fun biography can be, and so shed light on a fascinating cultural phenomenon'
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times
'sprightly collection of essays on the art of biography'
Anthony Quinn, Sunday Times
'in this excellent book of essays 17 important biographers wrestle with their own practice'
Kathryn Hughes, New Statesman & Society
'contains some excellent essays'
Hilary Spurling, Daily Telegraph
`...excellent book...The Art of Literary Biography offers an intriguing look at variety within the genre.'
`it is of eminent appeal not only to academics and students of literature, formal or not, but should be must reading for journalists, essayists, writers and serious readers of all kinds. As a handbook on the theory of writing biographies, it is essential and one of the best books on the subject we have seen to date.'
`this collection is notable in general for its cheerful indifference to theory ... There is a widespread awareness that most theoretical approaches do not describe or illuminate what biographers do ... lively collection.'
Peter Hollindale, University of York, Review of English Studies, Vol. XLVIII, No. 189, Feb '97
`an agreeable collection of essays ... with contributions from many distinguished practitioners ... This is an excellent collection which forces us to ponder the implications of the word 'art' in its title; for if biography can be so many kinds of art, what identity is it left with itself?'