This article concerns the return of the literary biography in the humanistic fields, especially in Danish literary research, since 1980. During the New Criticism in the 1960s biography was regarded as a superfluous genre, and during the neoMarxism of the 1970s as a naive genre. But around 1980 it returned in the form of a number of new scholarly works especially in the fields of literature and history. This article points to two elements in the postmodern Zeitgeist which might have played a role in promoting the return of biography: first, the collapse of the grand systems of interpretation, and second a change in the ideal of scholarship in the direction of constructivism. Then the article investigates how ‘the new biography’ is distinguished from the old and outlines three points in particular: 1) a greater understanding of the significance of social structures; 2) an increased focus on contingency, incoherence and indeterminacy in a human life; and 3) a rising interest in the ‘ordinary’ human being. On a fourth point, postmodern biography has not come as far as one might expect. Although it could be more experimental and theoretically self-conscious, in fact it employs surprisingly traditional patterns of narrative, most of which are stamped by the Bildungsroman of the 19th century.
Folia Scandinavica Posnaniensia, 2012, Vol 14, p. 34-44
Det Humanistiske Fakultet; Biografi; Videnskabelig biografi; Litterær biografi; Postmodernisme