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Biography - A Brief History (Hardcover) Loot Price: R286
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Biography - A Brief History (Hardcover): Nigel Hamilton
Biography - A Brief History (Hardcover): Nigel Hamilton

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Biography - A Brief History (Hardcover)

Nigel Hamilton

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List price R349 Loot Price R286 Discovery Miles 2 860 You Save R63 (18%)

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The story of life stories, from cave paintings and Gilgamesh to Michael Holroyd and James Frey.Hamilton may be the best friend biography has ever had. A skilled laborer in the life-story vineyard (Bill Clinton, 2003, etc.), he is also a fierce advocate for the importance of the genre - with some axes to grind. He wonders why the University of Hawaii at Manoa is the only one in the world with a department devoted to the study of biography. He rails against the OED, which he claims has insisted on limiting the definition of biography to written accounts only. Hamilton's much broader category includes portraits, sculpture, painting, plays, films, TV shows, comic books and much of popular culture. Although he does pause periodically to discuss unconventional forms (Shakespeare's dramatic studies of kings, for example), he focuses primarily on traditional biographies. Hamilton believes biography serves significant cultural functions. It is a way we learn about the past and (in the West at least) celebrate the primacy of the individual. His text hopscotches through history, staying put now and then to discuss great moments in biography and autobiography: the Gospels, St. Augustine, Plutarch, Raleigh, Rousseau, Boswell, Freud, Strachey and Woolf, who wrote Orlando because she decided that "if print biography could not batter down the doors of English decorum . . . it would have to mask itself as fiction." Hamilton declares Citizen Kane the most powerful of all biographies, even though fictionalized. He looks hard at forces that oppose the biographer - religion, tradition, prudishness, libel laws, totalitarianism - and casts particular opprobrium on copyright laws that keep permission to publish in the hands of a subject's surviving relatives. (He does not mention his own struggles with the Kennedys after the 1992 publication of JFK: Reckless Youth.) The author believes that democracy has been the propellant for biography's rocket-like rise in the last half-century . . . and for biographers' newfound freedom to write about their subjects' sex lives. Many illuminating excerpts illustrate the text.A vast subject confined in a small but well-illuminated room. (Kirkus Reviews)
For thousands of years we have recorded real lives--the lives of others, and of ourselves. For what purpose and for whom has this universal and timeless pursuit endured? What obstacles have lain in the path of biographers in the past, and what continues to confound biographers today? Above all, how is it that biographies and autobiographies play such a contested, popular role in contemporary Western culture, from biopics to blogs, from memoir to docudrama?

Award-winning biographer and teacher Nigel Hamilton addresses these questions in an incisive and vivid narrative that will appeal to students of human nature and self-representation across the arts and sciences. Tracing the remarkable and often ignored historical evolution of biography from the ancient world to the present, this brief and fascinating tour of the genre conveys the passionate quest to capture the lives of individuals and the many difficulties it has entailed through the centuries. From the "Epic of Gilgamesh" to "American Splendor," from cuneiform to the Internet, from commemoration to deconstruction, from fiction to fact--by way of famous biographical artists such as Plutarch, Saint Augustine, Sir Walter Raleigh, Samuel Johnson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lord Byron, Sigmund Freud, Lytton Strachey, Abel Gance, Virginia Woolf, Leni Riefenstahl, Orson Welles, Julian Barnes, Ted Hughes, Frank McCourt, and many others--Nigel Hamilton's "Biography: A Brief History" will change the way you think about biography and real lives.


Imprint: Harvard University Press
Country of origin: United States
Release date: March 2007
First published: March 2007
Authors: Nigel Hamilton
Dimensions: 184 x 149 x 28mm (L x W x T)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 316
ISBN-13: 978-0-674-02466-3
Barcode: 9780674024663
Categories: Books > Language & Literature > Literature: history & criticism > Literary studies
Books > Language & Literature > Literature: history & criticism > Literary studies > General
LSN: 0-674-02466-4

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