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Books  >   Biographies and Memoirs : Specific Groups : Women : 

Virginia Woolf's Nose : Essays on Biography

Lee, Hermione

Princeton University Press
Published:April 1, 2005

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Description: From Publishers Weekly
The author of an important biography of Virginia Woolf and one of Willa Cather, Lee is well versed in the challenges the genre poses. Where should biographers start, and how do they know where to stop? Where do the facts of someone's life end and its fictions begin? Biographies, Lee writes, are made up of "contested objects--relics, testimonies, versions, correspondences, the unverifiable." In four pithy, accessible and philosophical essays, Lee scrutinizes some notable case studies while emphasizing biography's inherent instability. She dredges up "eyewitness" accounts of the burial of Romantic poet Shelley's drowned corpse, comparing and contrasting them to reveal mythmaking embellishments. She analyzes some of the choices made by biographers of Samuel Pepys, whose densely detailed diaries cover only a finite period of his life, outside of which biographers must hypothesize. And she strikes a rich vein of cultural criticism when she examines the complex "creative translation" of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway into the novel The Hours by Michael Cunningham and the 2003 film of the same name. Lamenting aspects of how the film represents Woolf, and in particular her suicide, Lee summarizes and explores the film's reception among Woolf scholars and lay readers alike. Lee's immensely enjoyable study will energize debate among thoughtful readers and should become essential reading for aficionados of literary biography.
Copyright # Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description:
This intriguing and witty collection of essays by an internationally acclaimed biographer looks at how biography deals with myths and legends, what goes missing and what can't be proved in the story of a life. Virginia Woolf's Nose presents a variety of case-studies, in which literary biographers are faced with gaps and absences, unprovable stories and ambiguities surrounding their subjects.

In "Shelley's Heart and Pepys's Lobsters", an essay dealing with missing parts and biographical legends, Hermione Lee discusses one of the most complicated and emotionally charged examples of the contested use of biographical sources. "Jane Austen Faints" takes five competing versions of the same dramatic moment in the writer's life to ask how biography deals with the private lives of famous women. "Virginia Woolf's Nose" looks at the way this legendary author's life has been translated through successive transformations, from biography to fiction to film, and suggests there can be no such thing as a definitive version of a life. Finally, "How to End It All" analyzes the changing treatment of deathbed scenes in biography to show how biographical conventions have shifted, and asks why the narrators and readers of life-stories feel the need to give special meaning and emphasis to endings.

Virginia Woolf's Nose sheds new light on the way biographers bring their subjects to life as physical beings, and offers captivating new insights into the drama of "life-writing".

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