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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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Pieties and Literary Biography

Pieties and Literary Biography

(p.212) (p.213) 14 Pieties and Literary Biography
The Art of Literary Biography


Oxford University Press

The potential subjects of literary biographies have almost always been suspicious of the idea of a book about themselves. ‘Pieties’ is used in the title because of its ambiguous and floating nature, and because of its relevance to the biographizing of the life of a writer who was also a priest. The three primary meanings of ‘pious’ are: (1) showing devotion to religious duties; (2) dutiful, loyal; and (3) marked by hypocritical virtue, sanctimonious. This chapter discusses a kind of conflict that recurs in creating biographies, that between the ‘truthful’ picture of the subject that the biographer sees and the ‘desirable’ picture proposed by interested other parties — guardians of conventions and proprieties; in particular, the conflict between the warts-and-all image proposed by modern secular biographers, and the hagiographic tradition of portraying an exemplary picture of an ideal, as a guide for emulation. It is Hopkins' distinctive qualities that make him worth reading and exploring.

Keywords:   pieties, literary biography, pious, religious duties

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