Women Biography: Biographies and Portraits about, by, or for Women: An International Conference, University of Bern 6-9 November 2002

By Schwindt, Bianca | Biography, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Women Biography: Biographies and Portraits about, by, or for Women: An International Conference, University of Bern 6-9 November 2002


Schwindt, Bianca, Biography


Every great man has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.

--Oscar Wilde

Biography is no longer the bastard of the humanities. (1) The genre suffered greatly under the influence of (post)structural theories which deny the idea of an autonomously acting subject, since exactly this subject is a necessity for any biographical approach. Presently, literary biography is mainly discussed in the fields of Literary Studies, Sociology, Psychology, and History, albeit with varying foci. (2) Still, there is not much research done on the systematic and theoretical framework of biography as a literary genre. (3) Helmut Scheuer's study on biography from the eighteenth century until today has established itself as the standard work in German Language and Literature Studies on this topic, and in 1999, Christian yon Zimmermann organized a conference about fictional biographies where the development of fiction was discussed within the scope of the debate about biography. (4)

At the international Women Biography Conference, there was vehement support for the renaissance of a criminally neglected genre, and biography's role in the fields of German, English, French, and Scandinavian literary studies was outlined. Following upon Zimmermann's 1999 conference, the Bern conference had its main focus on women's literature and gender research in connection with biography. Conference organizers Nina Ehrlich (Vienna) and Christian yon Zimmermann (Bern) provided the scientific frame within which the participants spoke about the wide-ranging topic. First, the focus was on those texts which deal with portraits of women, and therefore with specific concepts of womanhood. That is what united all the lectures. In addition, about a third of the lectures also shared a focus on texts written by women and/or written for a female audience.

Second, the conference was also understood to serve as a forum for looking at the actual genesis and writing of biographies about women. This aspect was clearly stressed in all its political importance by Ilse Korotin (Vienna), who introduced the database biografiA (www.biografia.at), a valuable electronic encyclopedia which contains entries about Austrian female scientists of all provenances, in a format that enables a quick exchange of data; and in Ines Geipel's (Berlin) report on the genesis of her biography of the GDR-author Inge Muller in the form of a book presentation. Geipel's biography is an attempt to re-integrate the works of Muller into a political context, as this aspect of her texts has been largely ignored.

Finally, the heuristic aspect of the conference's topic was stressed in the opening lecture by Christian von Zimmermann, who pleaded for a precise analysis of both the rhetoric and the narrative elements of literary biographies. They often even include argumentative and didactic strategies, a feature that is not only constituent for men's, but also for women's biography.

The seventeen lectures, given by researchers from four different countries, were characterized by a wide range of methodological and thematic approaches. They were, however, linked by a certain tendency; namely, the development from individual biographies towards collective biographies, which seemed to be the leitmotif of the conference. Gisela Febel (Bremen) described how biographies about women are increasingly characterized by service to the collective. She presented an elaborate matrix of elements of the "new" collective Women's Biography, and pointed out that women in certain biographies are less individual characters with unique features, and more stereotypes consisting of simple patterns.

Four papers dealt with the theory of biography. Stephanie Bird (London) looked at the biographical novel The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag, and discussed how facts and fiction are interwoven to draw the picture of a complex female character. Certain types of biographical writing call for a peculiar narrative structuring, so as to make identification with the characters more difficult. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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 article

This article 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 article

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

Cited article

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 article

Women Biography: Biographies and Portraits about, by, or for Women: An International Conference, University of Bern 6-9 November 2002
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

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

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.

    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.