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The facts formed a line of buoys in the sea of my own imagination : history, fiction and speculative biography
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Donna BrienDonna Brien
Biographies that openly include conjecture and speculation have attracted virulent criticism for moving from a supposedly factual, historical mode of writing to a more imaginative and, therefore, (necessarily) non-historical approach. Profiling the most contentious of biographical sub-genres – the ‘speculative biography’, which proclaims the central role of authorial interpretation in biographical writing – this investigation uses a case study approach to focus on a number of rarely discussed works that illustrate varied aspects of the productive role of speculation in biographical writing. It also aims, by exploring how fiction and history can be framed and discussed in relation to biographical research and writing, to diffuse the limiting irreconcilability that is often mobilised when discussing these two terms as oppositional and antithetical tendencies, and instead suggests the rich potential of utilising the two as complementary writing strategies to produce biographies as rich, appealing and thought-provoking historically-informed narratives of real lives and experience. By referring to reviews, it also provides some contextualisation of how these biographies have been received by critics and reviewers. The focus is on international works.