The Postmodern Biography. Johnny Kondrup
The Postmodern Biography Johnny Kondrup 1. From disrepute to renaissance In the 1960s and 1970s, biography—both as a genre and as a method—was held in low esteem in Danish literary research. The same was also true in neighboring fields in Danish academia, such as literary theory and other modern philologies (e.g., English, German, Romance). This may initially be ascribed to the New Criticism movement, which gained prominence in Denmark in the 1960s.1 The New Critics held that each literary work was an autonomous aesthetic unit, a complex of internal structures that could, and should, be understood without regard for the person of the author. In the 1970s, New Criticism was superseded, at least in the universities, by Neo-Marxism. But this did nothing to help the cause of biography. On the contrary, biography now came to be regarded as a naïve genre, inasmuch as it overlooked the social structures that govern individuals’ lives, and merely reproduced those individuals’ false consciousness. By 1973, the climate had come to be such that the literary historian Peer E. Sørensen could declare his own study of Hans Christian Andersen’s writings „the last monograph.“ Sørensen could just as well have written „the last biography.“ His point was that any genre that takes the individual as its focus is an artifact of bourgeois consciousness, out of touch with the future.2 Yet opposition of this kind, driven as it was by movements outside the field, cannot fully account for biography’s disrepute in those...
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