La nova biografia

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The so called new biography is the kind of biographical writing which, inside the history of its genre, has become closer to the literature conceived as a formal creation. First of all, this article aims to date the creation of this kind of literature in the tradition of the biographical genre, to establish a schematic periodization while highlighting the more valuable works – i.e. those canonical and experimental – and to determine which was the methodological renovation proposed by the “new biography” as a consequence of the new ethics, which had made it necessary. This is due to the fact that the classical exemplary mission (which was the canonical one, taken to its highest level of influence in people’s lives during the Victorian era) let its way to an eagerness of full comprehension about the individual object of the biography, along with the appearance of new psychological theories – specially the psychoanalysis – which tried to reveal the inner world of men and women. The individual object of the biography was no longer a civil model and the new tendency was to conceive him as a complex individual, closer to a full featured character of the realist romance than to the statue which had to be venerated by the reader. This momentous change of biographical paradigm called for the biographer to show the hidden keys of this life, apart from the public side of his life, which applied to his private and intimate life. And this change of theme forced a change in the rhetoric and in the situation of the biographical narrator, object of summary of this article. Thanks to this ethical and formal change the “new biography” was acknowledged in the literary sector and become a popular genre during the period between the wars in Europe. This acknowledgement was greatly strengthened by the reflection about this new biographical genre created by two members of the Bloomsbury Group: Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf. The text also aims to summarize the ideas about this genre expressed either in articles, prefaces or even books (being Orlando the more significant case) by these two writers, who became played an essential role helping to consolidate the “new biography”. However, this article also aims to make clear, at the same time, that especially Woolf was soon aware of the limitations of this new biographical variation, as the fact of forcing this genre to become literature implied its distortion as a way of knowledge inherent to the historical studies.


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