CHAPTER III: Jamesian Auto/biographies
← 66 | 67 → CHAPTER IIIJamesian Auto/biographies
Auto/biographical reflection accompanied James from the beginning of his career as a writer, and increased, understandably, at the end of his life, when he was, on one hand, an acknowledged literary master, but, on the other, also increasingly subject to various acts of dissent, iconoclasm, and neglect. When commenting on his two biographies and three volumes of autobiography, James scholars note that his biographies contain in fact a lot of autobiographical information, and his autobiography was at least partly intended as a biography of people he knew. This part of James’s oeuvre is then an excellent illustration of the ways in which biography and autobiography interweave and coalesce. In comparison with the numerous studies on James’s novels and tales, the critical response to his auto/biographical writing still appears surprisingly meager, though the widespread postmodern and postcolonial habit of researching the periphery (also in the metaphorical sense of studying less well-known works of an acclaimed novelist) has, in recent years, resulted in scholarly publications devoted to James’s auto/biographies.
Both biographies were commissioned works, although the circumstances in which James accepted the offers differed considerably from each other. James received an offer to write a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864), one of the first American writers whose fame crossed the borders of his homeland, at the beginning of his literary career, whereas the commission to write a biography of William Wetmore Story (1819–1895), a good friend and a successful, but not...
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