biographical method

biographical method

the use of personal documents (such as letters or diaries) to construct sociological accounts. See LIFE HISTORY, ZNANIECKI.

Biographical Method


in literary scholarship, a method of studying literature according to which the life and personality of the writer are regarded as the determining factor in his work.

The biographical method is frequently associated with a negation of literary schools and the cultivation of an impressionistic portrait of a writer as the principal genre of criticism. It was first used by the French critic C. A. Sainte-Beuve (Literary Critical Portraits, vols. 1–5, 1836–39). The biographical method found a unique application in the methodology of H. Taine and G. Brandes.

By the beginning of the 20th century the advocates of the biographical method (R. de Gourmont in France, Iu. I. Aikhenval’d in Russia, and others) had purified it of extraneous elements. (Considered as such were the social and artistic ideas of the age in Sainte-Beuve’s works; in Taine, the influence of race, environment, and the moment; and in Brandes, the characteristics of social movements.) Advocates of the biographical method turned to the disclosure of the artist’s “intimate I” in a spirit of extreme impressionism. Marxist literary scholarship acknowledges the biographical method as an auxiliary device of research and studies biographical elements as one of the sources of the artistic image, the importance and meaning of which are broader than the material used in the work itself.

References in periodicals archive ?
This is not to say that Lock uses his biographical method to avoid critical interpretation.
Dr WATTERSON covers much of the same ground by a mainly biographical method.
in terms of Victorian womanliness rather than in terms of the special qualities of her writing," as does Jane Spencer, (24) reduces the complexity of The Life's structure and grants too little to the subtlety of Gaskell's biographical method.
Jamison finds the results of Ludwig's study intriguing but suspects his biographical method may miss many instances of mild manic depression at the highest levels of eminence, especially in fields outside the arts.
This book for advanced students and researchers sets the biographical method in historical context, illustrates its range and potential, and engages with the many questions surrounding its use.
For example, so many possible sources are cited for Vasari's historical or biographical method that the image of his intellectual formation is muddled rather than enriched.
A more complete confusion of critical thesis with biographical method is difficult to imagine.
On the science of uncertainty; the biographical method in social research.
Documents of Life Revisited: Narrative and Biographical Methods for a 21st Century Critical Humanism.
Alan Nelson, in an otherwise useful and interesting article about biographical methods in general and some contemporary references to Shakespeare in particular, insists that he is "confronting history as it really happened" (56, his italics).
The final section, dedicated to "Kurt Weill--Studies about His Life and Work," opens with Stephen Hinton's important discussion of various biographical methods and their realization by Weill's biographers.
Given the nature of biographical methods, it seems to this reader that Spurlock and Magistro acceptably qualified their claims, expanded the number of women in their sample, and introduced significant interpretations of both popular culture and social science in order to deal with the problems of generalizing.