‘Welcome creative subversions’: experiment and innovation in recent biographical writing
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Donna BrienDonna Brien
While biography is popularly understood as a literature that tells straightforward, factual life stories, biography as a literary form has been, and continues to be, the site of considerable experimentation. Focusing on experimental biographical practice, and its reception by reviewers, this survey considers a range of current writers and their work, mapping their experimentation and, where relevant, their consideration of this practice, against the background of innovation achieved in biographical writing during the twentieth century. This includes a case study of Andrew Motion’s Wainewright the Poisoner (2000) to illustrate the form and craft of biographical innovation, including the practical, theoretical and methodological issues involved for writers in this field. This survey supplements the considerable scholarly engagement with this topic since the second half of the twentieth century with a perspective that is focused on both authors’ production and its reception.