Created Lives: The Evolution of Literary Biography

  • Andrew Otty University of Exeter


The danger when discussing evolution, in any field, is to imagine that it is a linear process—a teleology. In this paper, I will discuss the developments, and new forms, which have appeared in the genre of literary biography over the past half-century. However, anyone who takes the Times Literary Supplement or London Review of Books, or who has browsed the shelves of Waterstones—the UK's leading bookseller—recently, will be aware that documentary biography, in a form that has not changed significantly since Boswell's Life of Johnson, remains dominant. We must think in terms of what the palaeontologist Yoel Rak calls the "Star Wars Bar" theory of evolution (McKie 38-67)—that Neanderthals and documentary biographers exist alongside Homo sapiens and New Journalists, until the Darwinian fitness of one or other ceases to be sufficient and that species, or form, becomes extinct.
How to Cite
Otty, Andrew. 2006. “Created Lives: The Evolution of Literary Biography”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts, August.