Biography Biography A by ln1.sudhakar



A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. It
entails more than basic facts (education, work, relationships, and death),
a biography also portrays a subject's experience of these events. Unlike a
profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents a subject's life
story, highlighting various aspects of his or her life, including intimate
details of experience, and may include an analysis of a subject's

Biographical works are usually non-fiction, but fiction can also be used
to portray a person's life. One in-depth form of biographical coverage is
called legacy writing. Biographical works in diverse media—from
literature to film—form the genre known as a biography.

An authorized biography is written with the permission, cooperation,
and, at times, participation of a subject or a subject's heirs. An
autobiography is about a life of a subject, written by that subject or
sometimes with a collaborator. [1]


Early biography

The Early Middle Ages (AD 400 to 1450) saw a decline in awareness of
the classical culture in Europe. During this time, the only repositories of
knowledge and records of the early history in Europe were those of the
Roman Catholic Church. Hermits, monks, and priests used this historic
period to write the first modern biographies. Their subjects were usually
restricted to the church fathers, martyrs, popes, and saints. Their works
were meant to be inspirational to the people, vehicles for conversion to
Christianity (see Hagiography). One significant secular example of a
biography from this period is the life of Charlemagne by his courtier
Meanwhile in the medieval Islamic civilization (c. AD 750 to 1258),
biographies began to be produced on a large scale, noteably with the
advent of paper and the beginning of the Prophetic biography tradition.
This led to the introduction of a new literary genre: the biographical
dictionary. The first biographical dictionaries were written in the
Muslim world from the 9th century onwards. They contained more
social data for a large segment of the population than that found in any
other pre-industrial society. The earliest biographical dictionaries
initially focused on the lives of the prophets of Islam and their
companions, with one of these early examples being The Book of The
Major Classes by Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi. And then began the
documentation of the lives of many other historical figures (from rulers
to scholars) who lived in the medieval Islamic world.[2]

By the late Middle Ages, biographies became less church-oriented in
Europe as biographies of kings, knights, and tyrants began to appear.
The most famous of such biographies was Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir
Thomas Malory. The book was an account of the life of the fabled King
Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Following Malory, the new
emphasis on humanism during the Renaissance promoted a focus on
secular subjects, such as artists and poets and encouraged writing in the
vernacular. Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists (1550) was the landmark
biography focusing on secular lives. Vasari made celebrities of his
subjects, as the Lives became an early "bestseller". Two other
developments are noteworthy: the development of the printing press in
the 15th century and the gradual increase in literacy. Biographies in the
English language began appearing during the reign of Henry VIII. John
Foxe's Acts and Monuments (1563), better known as Foxe's Book of
Martyrs, was essentially the first dictionary of the biography in Europe,
followed by Thomas Fuller's The History of the Worthies of England
(1662), with a distinct focus on public life. Influential in shaping popular
conceptions of pirates, A General History of the Pyrates (1724) is the
prime source for the biographies of many well-known pirates.[3]
The romantic biographers disputed many of Johnson's judgments. Jean
Jacques Rousseau's Confessions (1781–88) exploited the romantic point
of view and the confessional mode. The tradition of testimony and
confession was brought to the New World by the Puritan and Quaker
memoirists and journal-keepers, where the form continued to be
influential. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography (1791) would provide the
archetype for the American success story. (Stone, 1982) Autobiography
would remain an influential form of biographical writing.

Generally the American biography followed the English model, while
incorporating Thomas Carlyle's view that a biography was a part of
history. Carlyle asserted that the lives of great human beings were
essential to understanding society and its institutions. While the
historical impulse would remain a strong element in the early American
biography, the American writers carved out their own distinct approach.
What emerged was a rather didactic form of biography, which sought to
shape the individual character of a reader in the process of defining
national character. (Casper, 1999)

The distinction between the mass biography and the literary biography
had formed by the middle of the nineteenth century, and reflected a
breach between high culture and middle-class culture. This division
would endure for the remainder of the century. Biography began to
flower, thanks to new publishing technologies and an expanding reading
public. This revolution in publishing made books available to a larger
audience of readers. Almost ten times as many American biographies
appeared from 1840 to 1860 than had appeared in the first two decades
of the century. In addition, affordable paperback editions of popular
biographies were published for the first time. Also, American periodicals
began publishing a sequence of biographical sketches. (Casper, 1999)
The topical emphasis shifted from republican heroes to self-made men
and women.

Much of the late 19th-century biography remained formulaic. Notably,
few autobiographies had been written in the 19th century. The following
century witnessed a renaissance of autobiography. Beginning with
Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery (1901) and followed by
Henry Adams' Education (1907), the chronicle of self-defined failure
that ran counter to the predominant American success story. The
publication of socially significant autobiographies by both men and
women began to flourish. (Stone, 1982)

The authority of psychology and sociology was ascendant, and would
make its mark on the new century’s biographies. (Stone, 1982) The
demise of the "great man" theory of history was indicative of the
emerging mindset. Human behavior would be explained through
Darwinian theories. "Sociological" biographies conceived of their
subjects' actions as the result of the environment, and tended to
downplay individuality. The development of psychoanalysis led to a
more penetrating and comprehensive understanding of the biographical
subject, and induced biographers to give more emphasis to childhood
and adolescence. Clearly these psychological ideas were changing the
way Americans read and wrote biographies, as a culture of
autobiography developed in which the telling of one's own story became
a form of therapy. (Casper, 1999)

The conventional concept of national heroes and narratives of success
disappeared in the obsession with psychological explorations of
personality. The new school of biography featured iconoclasts, scientific
analysts, and fictional biographers. This wave included Lytton Strachey,
Gamaliel Bradford, André Maurois, and Emil Ludwig, among others.
Strachey's biographies had an influence similar to that which Samuel
Johnson had enjoyed earlier. In the 1920s and '30s, biographical writers
sought to capitalize on Strachey's popularity and imitate his style. Robert
Graves (I, Claudius, 1934) stood out among those following Strachey's
model of "debunking biographies." The trend in literary biography was
accompanied in popular biography by a sort of "celebrity voyeurism", in
the early decades of the century. This latter form's appeal to readers was
based on curiosity more than morality or patriotism.
By World War I, cheap hard-cover reprints had become popular. The
decades of the 1920s witnessed a biographical "boom." In 1929, nearly
700 biographies were published in the United States, and the first
dictionary of American biography appeared. In the decade that followed,
numerous biographies continued to be published, despite the economic
depression. They reached a growing audience through inexpensive
formats via public libraries.

The late feminist scholar Carolyn Heilbrun observed that women's
biographies and autobiographies began to change character during the
second wave of feminist activism. She cited Nancy Milford's 1970
biography Zelda, as the "beginning of a new period of women's
biography, because "[only] in 1970 were we ready to read not that Zelda
had destroyed Fitzgerald, but Fitzgerald her: he had usurped her
narrative." Heilbrun named 1973 as the turning point in women's
autobiography, with the publication of May Sarton's Journal of a
Solitude, for that was the first instance where a woman told her life
story, not as finding "beauty even in pain" and transforming "rage into
spiritual acceptance," but acknowledging what had previously been
forbidden to women: their pain, their rage, and their "open admission of
the desire for power and control over one's life."[4]

Multimedia forms

With technological advancements in the 20th century, multimedia
biography became more popular than literary forms of personality.
Along with documentary Biographical films, Hollywood produced
numerous commercial films based on the lives of famous people. The
popularity of these forms of biography culminated in such cable and
satellite television networks as A&E, The Biography Channel, The
History Channel, and History International.

More recently, CD-ROM and online biographies have appeared. Unlike
books and films, they often do not tell a chronological narrative: instead,
they are archives of many discrete media elements related to an
individual person, including video clips, photographs, and text articles.
Media scholar Lev Manovich says that such archives exemplify the
database form, allowing users to navigate the materials in many ways
(Manovich 220). 21st century web 2.0 applications, such as enable users all over the world to compile their own
biography and illustrate it with other people's photos. Autobiographys
are very useful tools in finding out more about a person.

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