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 ?
It uses the biographical method of collecting life stories, As well as a life history calendar to reconstruct these activists trajectories throughout the post-socialist period (1989 to the present).
This is not to say that Lock uses his biographical method to avoid critical interpretation.
After a brief overview of recent scholarship on similar topics (Alain Corbellari's study of Joseph Bedier and Charles Ridoux's on medieval studies in France between 1860 and 1914 being the most salient), Bahler announces her choice of a biographical method as a necessary corrective to overly structural approaches that efface the individual from the historical record.
She is aware of the problems that her relatively small "sample" might pose, but she also demonstrates the opportunities that her "biographical method" presents for exploring the very personal, existential dimensions of the reality we call "the Holocaust."
The biographical method is based on the use and collection of documents of life (people's own written or spoken words, "thick descriptions" of observable behavior, and turning points) (Smith, 1998).
And his achievement is enhanced by a methodology that balances admirably a respect for biographical method with a clear awareness of recent theoretical speculation about the genre.
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. Uglow has noted that "the formal structure of the book ...
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.
The founding father of the sort of criticism that Dickstein wants to see restored is Arnold, the writer of |a criticism of sensibility' (19) who assimilated literary criticism to social criticism, used a biographical method and emphasized value judgments.
Greg Clingham takes a partly psycho-analytical approach to Boswell--still harping on fathers, real and ideal--and provides a telling discussion of questions of biographical method. For Clingham, Johnson has, what Boswell in the Life lacks, the ability and willingness to allow the works to speak for the man: 'in Johnson's capacity to see life and art as continuous though different, within the framework of general nature, he discovers the human revelatory powers of literature represented by the works of the poets who form his subject'.
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.