"Blurbing" Biographical: Authorship and Autobiography

By Douglas, Kate | Biography, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

"Blurbing" Biographical: Authorship and Autobiography


Douglas, Kate, Biography


Especially with the growth of new media, and amid the boom in representations of self and life in literature and popular culture, questions of authorship continue to be keenly debated. This interest in the ways artists and consumers are positioned in relation to knowledge and creativity has been spurred by the increased attention given to notions of artistic origins and narrative ownership, particularly in recent autobiographical discourse. There is significant work encompassing the effects of scholarly criticism upon the figure of the author. Despite its public visibility, however, book publicity, and its particular significance to discussions of authorship, is one issue that has remained mostly unexamined. Such an examination unveils an interesting contradiction. At a time when two, or perhaps even three generations of literary theorists have primarily been raised on the notion that the biography of the author is almost irrelevant to the text, in the contemporary world of book publication and marketing, the author has if anything become even more crucial to a book's success.

Such disparities between academic and commercial literary reception have of course been well noted over the years. Eric Homberger and John Charmley assert that "everywhere in academic life the subtle, [and] the not-so-subtle denigration of biography grows apace," as "influential voices tell us that the 'author' is dead, and that biographical study of a writer or artist is either irrelevant or not fully serious" (ix). Yet publishers and critics agree that, for better or worse, the production and popular consumption of life writing, and interest in the biographical details of contemporary authors, are experiencing a notable boom. As Hilary McPhee argues, "life-writing is now a profitable enterprise for publishers. The readership is growing all the time. First person narratives, especially those by 24-years-old footballers, sell much better than novels" (4). There is little doubt that in the promotion of popular culture, "the personal" is profitable. Even in academic publishing, authors are increasingly being ma rketed by having prominent, professional photographs on their book jackets, or by making public appearances on talk shows, public panels, or conferences. As Paul John Eakin notes, it is very common for critics to be drawn into giving autobiographical accounts of their involvement in particular theoretical pursuits (xxiv). (1) And one of the most frequently asked questions at writers festivals is to what extent fictional works are autobiographical. Thus, in an age when writers and writing are commonly categorized according to fiction or non-fiction, gender, culture, age, and so on, by transgressing other genres autobiography as a literary form is finding itself more often than not implicated within theoretical discussions and popular culture critiques of literature. The significance of autobiography has in fact been a subject of much debate among literary scholars in recent decades, and Philippe Lejeune's "Autobiographical Pact" offers one explanation of how and why readers respond to autobiographical writing. The autobiographical pact involves the textual assertion that the author, narrator, and protagonist are the same. In making this self-reference, the author enters into an agreement with readers that they will be reading about an actual person whose existence is legally verifiable (Lejeune 11).

The contemporary publishing industry is able to take this one step further by making public assertions that a text is autobiographical when publicizing it. Publicists and sellers of autobiographies agree that one of the keys to the successes of such texts is the connections they make between author and reader (see McPhee, Winters, and Gray). Autobiographies, according to popular discourse, offer insight into the lives of individuals (as community members). Their disclosures, interpretations, and records of experiences are thought to provide capital for readers to decipher their own life experiences. …

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

"Blurbing" Biographical: Authorship and Autobiography
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.