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Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography (review)

Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography (review) 05-Reviews 12/5/05 9:33 AM Page 677 REVIEWS Susan Tridgell. Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2004. 234 pp. ISBN 3-0391-0166-8, $54.95. It is perhaps the link (often implicit) between judgment and biography that accounts for the many detractors that biography has attracted in modern times. For over a hundred years biographees (real and potential) have advo- cated to one another the means of subverting the biographical project. Henry James famously wrote of the artist figure as “The pale forewarned victim” who must destroy his tracks so that “with every track covered, every paper burnt and every letter unanswered, [he] will, in the tower of art, the invisible gran- ite, stand without a sally, the siege of all the years” (160). Germaine Greer (her- self a biographer of her father) has expressed her dislike for the genre, describ- ing it as “rape . . . an unpardonable crime against selfhood” (qtd. in Salwak 6). Presumably the conception of selfhood that Greer has in mind is itself one that can be understood through biography. We might ask, in other words, whether we can conceive of a self that can be injured by biography without ourselves engaging http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography (review)

Biography , Volume 28 (4) – Jan 9, 2006

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

05-Reviews 12/5/05 9:33 AM Page 677 REVIEWS Susan Tridgell. Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2004. 234 pp. ISBN 3-0391-0166-8, $54.95. It is perhaps the link (often implicit) between judgment and biography that accounts for the many detractors that biography has attracted in modern times. For over a hundred years biographees (real and potential) have advo- cated to one another the means of subverting the biographical project. Henry James famously wrote of the artist figure as “The pale forewarned victim” who must destroy his tracks so that “with every track covered, every paper burnt and every letter unanswered, [he] will, in the tower of art, the invisible gran- ite, stand without a sally, the siege of all the years” (160). Germaine Greer (her- self a biographer of her father) has expressed her dislike for the genre, describ- ing it as “rape . . . an unpardonable crime against selfhood” (qtd. in Salwak 6). Presumably the conception of selfhood that Greer has in mind is itself one that can be understood through biography. We might ask, in other words, whether we can conceive of a self that can be injured by biography without ourselves engaging

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jan 9, 2006

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