The Art of Literary Biography

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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.