Category Archives: Biography Issue

Release of Biography Special Issue 41.1, on Prince

We are pleased to announce that our latest issue of Biography, including a special cluster of essays on Prince(!), guest edited by Andreana Clay, is officially out in the world! You can access the complete issue via your ProjectMuse subscription right here: http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/38246

(You might also note that we deviated from our template color for this cover and chose a highly saturated deep purple in honor of the Purple One!)

The full TOC, with abstracts, is below:

__On Prince: A Labor of Love, Loss, and Freedom__

Andreana Clay
Introduction
With the death of Prince Rogers Nelson on April 21, 2016, many people’s lives were changed forever. In efforts both big and small, those of us left have tried to recall, feel deeply, and write down what his life and death meant to us individually and in community. This special feature explores the feelings of four writers—Andreana Clay, Greg Tate, Steven W. Thrasher, and Scott Poulson-�Bryant—who have written about music, race, and Blackness and turn that gaze to Prince and his impact. Each paper was part of the American Studies Association special panel on Prince titled “Prince in Revue.” Here, as we did there, we draw upon a personal and political relationship to Prince in an effort to understand his impact on music, identity, and community.

Greg Tate
Prince and the Erotics of Democracy

Steven Thrasher
Obituarizing Black Maleness, Obituarizing Prince

Scott Poulson-Bryant
Prince, Queerness, and the Both/And of “Or”

Andreana Clay
Keywords: Light Skin-ded Free Black Sex, Girlfriend

__Open-Forum Articles__
Stefano Calzati and Roberto Simanowski
Self-Narratives on Social Networks: Trans-Platform Stories and Facebook’s Metamorphosis into a Postmodern Semiautomated Repository
This article focuses on self-narratives and identity construction in the context of social networking sites (SNSs) by discussing the findings of a research project that had at its core the practice-based module “Facebook and Autobiography: How We Narrate Ourselves on Social Networks,” which we designed and taught at a major Hong Kong university. With students as participants, we explored how the infrastructure of Facebook affects the processes of self-narration and what differences and similarities can be detected between such digitally mediated processes and those emerging in more traditional written forms, such as diaries.

Norma Clarke
“More National (to Ireland) than Personal”: James Prior’s Life of Oliver Goldsmith (1837)
No full biography of Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774) appeared until 1837. It was written by a fellow Irishman, James Prior, who had already published a well-received biography of Edmund Burke. Prior explicitly claimed Goldsmith for Ireland, situating him in a tradition of writers whose lives were not well known and paying attention to other Irish writers in his London circle. Prior’s book was praised for its research but criticized for the accumulation of detail, especially about minor figures. John Forster in 1848 and Washington Irving in 1849 each used Prior’s research to issue biographies of Goldsmith aimed at a wider public. Prior was furious. A controversy ensued in which Prior claimed that the information he had gathered belonged to him. Forster struck back. Public and critics alike responded favorably to Forster, whose version of Goldsmith was judged “real biography” and whose argument that biographers do not have possession of facts seemed common sense. Posterity sided with Forster. But this essay argues that Prior’s anger can be understood differently if we take Irish history into account.

Alan Filewod
“The Experience Being My Own”: Identifying Life Writing in Plays by Canadian Veterans of the Great War
This article explores the problem of theatrical playtexts that disguise the operations of life writing in conventionalized dramatic genres by identifying life writing in three plays written by returned soldiers in Canada in the years following the First World War. The essay asks how we might identify life writing in theater if auto/biography is neither overtly claimed nor foregrounded in content or performance and identifies a historical moment when the autobiographical compulsion was hidden behind the scrim of genre convention prior to the legitimization of autobiographical drama in the modern theater.

Hedley Twidle
“A Very Strange Relationship”: Life Writing, Overwriting, and the Scandal of Biography in the Gordimer-Roberts Affair
This article considers a controversial biography of Nadine Gordimer, as yet the only life of the South African novelist and Nobel laureate. No Cold Kitchen (2005) by Ronald Suresh Roberts was the subject of much media attention when Gordimer revoked her authorization of the project and was accused of “censorship” by her biographer. Beyond the immediate scandal, the Gordimer-Roberts affair reveals latent, unresolved elements within the South African transition. Caught up in the vexed question of critical authority—who can plausibly write about whom in a literary system so warped by colonial and apartheid aftermaths?—it becomes an excessive, overdetermined, and even chaotic life writing project, but one that can still be read against the grain for its wealth of source materials, correspondence, and primary research.

Jamie Wood
“Here I Am”: Eliot, “Gerontion,” and the Great War
This essay considers “Gerontion,” contra Eliot and scholarship, as an essentially autobiographical poem. Detailed analysis of the poem’s composition reveals it to be firmly rooted in the summer of 1919. The poem is part of Eliot’s wider critical attempt to reconcile experience with art in the aftermath of the Great War.

_Reviews_
The Private Jefferson: Perspectives from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, by Henry Adams, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrea Wulf
Reviewed by Susan Kern

Musical Biographies: The Music of Memory in Post-1945 German Literature, by Michal Ben-Horin
Reviewed by Simon Trevor Walsh

Narrative Matters in Medical Contexts across Disciplines, edited by Franziska Gygax and Miriam A. Locher
Reviewed by Lars-Christer Hydén

The Lives of Frederick Douglass, by Robert S. Levine
Reviewed by Jeannine Marie DeLombard

Making Marie Curie: Intellectual Property and Celebrity Culture in an Age of Information, by Eva Hemmings Wirtén
Reviewed by Mott T. Greene

Release of Biography issue 40.3

We are pleased to announce the release of issue 40.3. Here is what you can find in the issue:

Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3 • Summer 2017: http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/37471

Editor’s Note

Articles

Andrew Jewell
Why Obscure the Record?: The Psychological Context of Willa Cather’s Ban on Letter Publication

This essay provides an explanation for American author Willa Cather’s confounding decision to ban the publication of her letters, arguing that one must understand the specific personal and psychological contexts of the execution of her final will in 1943. Since the ban on publication has now been lifted by Cather’s executors, the essay uses ample direct evidence from the letters themselves to analyze the concerns that led to Cather’s choice. I argue that Cather’s ban emerged from a time of grief, physical pain, and growing hopelessness about the future while the world was at war.

Jayne Lewis
“Strange Imagination”: Valentine Greatrakes’s Healing Aura and the
Autobiographical Impulse

The controversial Irish Protestant healer Valentine Greatrakes’s 1666 autobiography is an under-appreciated text in the history of anglophone life writing, one that invites us to rethink the early history of a genre that has long been linked to a spatialized, specular, and mimetic model of the self. In contrast to the post-Lockean texts that posit that model, A Brief Account of Mr Valentine Greatrak’s and Divers of the Strange Cures by Him Lately Performed incorporates Greatrakes’s unorthodox method of healing by touch over time into the process of literary self-representation. As it plays between poles of distance and proximity, objectivity and contingency, shadow and substance the resulting textual “perform[ance]” may be historicized in terms of late-seventeenth-century conceptions of what Greatrakes’s implied reader, the pneumatic chemist Robert Boyle, called the “little atmospheres” that surround human bodies—“atmospheres” that anticipate Walter Benjamin’s modern notion of the aura but treat aura as a uniquely communicative aspect of the person. Greatrakes’s shamanistic practice binds his readers to his patients, thereby developing a therapeutic form of transpersonal, transhistorical, transgeneric personal identity uniquely realized in the literary text.

Anna Poletti
Putting Lives on the Record: The Book as Material and Symbol in
Life Writing

This article develops an understanding of the role of life writing in putting marginalized voices on the record by examining the material and symbolic history of the book and its relationship with life writing. Taking two key points in the history of the book as its focus, the article argues that “the record” is a material and symbolic performative site that authorizes a life writer’s claims to knowledge and experience. Through a reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1963 autobiography Les Mots (The Words) the article demonstrates the importance of the book to how life writers and scholars of life writing conceptualize the cultural, political, and social importance of telling stories from life.

Linda Zygutis
On the Lecture Circuit with Gertrude Stein’s Portraits

This essay intervenes in recent scholarship on modernism and celebrity that treats fame as a unidirectional performance by emphasizing the extent to which Gertrude Stein’s celebrity is the product of external artifice: particularly, the invocation of preexisting social types drawn from mass culture and circulated by publishers and promoters eager to market Stein to an audience expecting a very specific model of (feminine) success. Having become a best seller in no small part due to its “gossipy” look into the glamorous world of the Parisian art movement, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas transformed Stein into a bona fide star. But while Stein had actively courted commercial success, her first taste of celebrity came with a discomfiting loss of control. With so many people eager to “know” her, Stein felt her own sense of self slipping away. By pairing critical analysis of Stein’s own thoughts on celebrity with her often-overlooked Lectures in America, I argue that Stein’s lectures, presented as they were to audiences expecting the same “gossipy” depictions they received in the autobiography, are not only a subversion of the expectations associated with fame but a frank depiction of its failures, a self-conscious demonstration of the artifice of celebrity.

Reviews

Nostalgia and Auto/Biography: Considering the Past in the Present,
by Hilary Dickinson and Michael Erben
Reviewed by Janelle L. Wilson

In Haste with Aloha: Letters and Diaries of Queen Emma 1881–1885,
selected and edited by David W. Forbes
Reviewed by Riánna M. Williams

Self as Nation: Contemporary Hebrew Autobiography, by Tamar S. Hess
Reviewed by Michael Keren

Diaries, by Eva Hesse
Reviewed by Charles Reeve

Love Among the Archives: Writing the Lives of Sir George Scharf,
Victorian Bachelor, by Helena Michie and Robyn Warhol
Reviewed by Amanda Kotch

Postcolonial Life Narratives: Testimonial Transactions,
by Gillian Whitlock
Reviewed by Philip Holden

Contributors