Writing Biography: Historians & Their Craft

By Lloyd E. Ambrosius | Go to book overview

1.

Biography Matters: Why Historians Need
Well-Crafted Biographies More than Ever

Shirley A. Leckie

In September 1999, Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois—Chicago, attacked modern biography as “Minutiae without Meaning” in the New York Times. It had fallen into this sorry state, he maintained, because the old “master narrative models” had lost their meaning for contemporary readers. These included “the providential model, ” based on the idea that humans, tainted by original sin, inevitably repeat the failings of Adam and Eve, and the “wheel of fortune model, ” which sees cycles of luck and misfortune as determining life's outcome. Hence, modern biographers furiously collect details and then “invent or fabricate a meaning, ” based on their “favorite hobby horse, ” to hold their narratives together. But, in reality, Fish argued, they are “left with little more than a collection of random incidents, and the only truth being told is the truth of contingency, of events succeeding one another in a universe of accident and chance." 1

Since “cause and effect” remains the biographers' “stock in trade, ” Fish accused modern biographers of imposing on their work their own contrived “explanatory structure." 2 In the end, he concluded, every biography is actually autobiographical, but rather than revealing that fact to their reading audience, as true autobiographers do, they “can only get it wrong, can only lie, can only substitute their own story for the story of their announced subject.” Such chicanery renders the medium “a bad

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Writing Biography: Historians & Their Craft
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 166

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.