Understanding Our Selves

The Dangerous Art of Biography

by Susan Tridgell (Author)
©2004 Monographs 242 Pages
Series: European Connections, Volume 12


Modern Western biography has become one of the most popular and most controversial forms of literature. Critics have attacked its tendency to rely on a strong narrative drive, its focus on a single person’s life and its tendency to delve ever more deeply into that person’s inner, private experience, though these tendencies seem to have only increased biography’s popularity. To date, however, biography has been a rarely studied literary form. Little serious attention has been given to the light biographies can shed on philosophical problems, such as the intertwining of knowledge and power, or the ways in which we can understand lives, or terms like ‘the self’. Should selves be seen as relational or as autonomous? What of the ‘lies and silences’ of biographies, the ways in which embodiment can be ignored? A study of these problems allows engagement with a range of philosophers and literary theorists, including Roland Barthes, Lorraine Code, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas, Alasdair MacIntyre, Ray Monk, Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Ricoeur, Richard Rorty and Charles Taylor. Biography can be a dangerous art, claiming to know ‘just how you feel’. This book explores the double-edged nature of biography, looking at what it reveals about both narratives and selves.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2011 (December)
Biographische Literatur Selbst Biography self moral accountability philosophical biographie holocaust representation ethics
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2004. 242 pp.

Biographical notes

Susan Tridgell (Author)

The Author: Susan Tridgell is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. She has taught at both the Australian National University and the Australian Catholic University and has published articles on biography, nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, ethics and literature, Holocaust biography, philosophical biography and conceptions of the self. Authors of interest have included Bertrand Russell, Emmanuel Levinas, George Eliot and D.H. Lawrence. She received her doctorate in literature from the Australian National University.


Title: Understanding Our Selves