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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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The Necessary Ignorance of a Biographer

The Necessary Ignorance of a Biographer

(p.226) (p.227) 15 The Necessary Ignorance of a Biographer
The Art of Literary Biography


Oxford University Press

The title offers neither paradox nor false modesty. This chapter specifically attempts to bring back into the debate about biography a fact which many desire to conceal. Consider that very common habit of spelling out, in the first moments of a biography, what is going to happen chronologically towards the end — a death. Deaths in biographies are very often — by their very position in the narrative — seen not just as the necessarily final things to happen to the subjects of biographies but as culminating points, which can be used to sum up and confirm what the lives have really been about. Ignorance is implicit in the nature of business and its necessities should be embraced.

Keywords:   biography, ignorance, biographer, death

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