A BRIEF HISTORY OF BIOGRAPHIES: FROM PLUTARCH TO CELEBS

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BIOGRAPHIES: FROM PLUTARCH TO CELEBS

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by Andrew Brown

Does the success of warts-and-all celebrity biographies betray our prurient, voyeuristic times? Or is a fascination with the lives and struggles of others a facet of human nature, discernible in the oldest of texts? Modern biographies, Andrew Brown argues, inspire by framing life as a struggle – against drink, drugs, depression or deprivation – that is eventually won. Yet this trajectory can similarly be found in even the earliest lives of saints, struggling against the devil. How has our attitude to life-writing been affected by developments such as the rise of psychoanalysis and the destabilisation of the self?

Publication date: 01/09/2011