The Biographical Turn: Lives in History – H.Renders, B. de Haan, J. Harmsma.

Edited by Hans Renders, Binne de Haan, Jonne Harmsma
222 pages
© 2017 – Routledge

Paperback: 9781138939714
pub: 2016-09-28
Hardback: 9781138939707
pub: 2016-09-26


The Biographical Turn showcases the latest research through which the field of biography is being explored. Fifteen leading scholars in the field present the biographical perspective as a scholarly research methodology, investigating the consequences of this bottom-up approach and illuminating its value for different disciplines.

While biography has been on the rise in academia since the 1980s, this volume highlights the theoretical implications of the biographical turn that is changing the humanities. Chapters cover subjects such as gender, religion, race, new media and microhistory, presenting biography as a research methodology suited not only for historians but also for explorations in areas including literature studies, sociology, economics and politics. By emphasizing agency, the use of primary sources and the critical analysis of context and historiography, this book demonstrates how biography can function as a scholarly methodology for a wide range of topics and fields of research.

International in scope, The Biographical Turn emphasizes that the individual can have a lasting impact on the past and that lives that are now forgotten can be as important for the historical narrative as the biographies of kings and presidents. It is a valuable resource for all students of biography, history and historical theory.

Table of Contents


List of contributors


1 The Biographical Turn: Biography as Critical Method in the Humanities and in Society

Hans Renders, Binne de Haan and Jonne Harmsma


Section 1: The Biographical Turn in the Humanities

2 Biography as Corrective

Nigel Hamilton

3 The Plurality of the Past: Historical Time and the Rediscovery of Biography

Sabina Loriga

4 The Life Is Never Over: Biography as a Microhistorical Approach

Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon

5 Personalized History: Biofiction, Source Criticism and the Topicality of Biography

Binne de Haan

6 The Life Effect: Literature Studies and the Biographical Perspective

Joanny Moulin

7 Biography as a Concept of Thought: On the Premises of Biographical Research and Narrative

Christian Klein


Section 2: The Biographical Turn in Fields of Knowledge

8 Biographies as Multipliers: The First World War as Turning Point in the Lives of Modernist Artists

Hans Renders and Sjoerd van Faassen

9 ‘Honest Politics’: A Biographical Perspective on Economic Expertise as a Political Style

Jonne Harmsma

10 Rediscovering Agency in the Atlantic: A Biographical Approach Linking Entrepreneurial Spirit and Overseas Companies

Kaarle Wirta

11 Building Bridges to Past Centuries: Religion and Empathy in Early Modern Biography

Enny de Bruijn

12 Palatable and Unpalatable Leaders: Apartheid and Post-Apartheid Afrikaner Biography

Lindie Koorts


Section 3: The Biographical Turn in Academia and Society

13 Biography Is Not A Selfie: Authorization as the Creeping Transition from Autobiography to Biography

Hans Renders

14 What Are We Turning From? Research and Ideology in Biography and Life Writing

Craig Howes

15 Liberation From Low Dark Space: Biography Beside and Beyond the Academy

Carl Rollyson

16 From Academic Historian to Popular Biographer: Musings on the Practical Poetics of Biography

Debby Applegate




Prochaines séances du SEMINAIRE “BIOGRAPHIE” 14 et 15 décembre 2016

Conférence du Séminaire Biographie

Jeudi 15 décembre à 17h – Maison de la Recherche – salle 2.44

Taïna Tuhkunen

Professeur des universités en études américaines à l’Université d’Angers

« Inspiré d’une vie » : le genre biopic en question

Définissant le biopic (film biographique/biographie filmée) comme la représentation de « la vie d’un personnage historique, passé ou présent », George F. Custen fait le constat que les stars et les célébrités sont également des « figures historiques emblématiques » dont l’image publique peut interférer avec le discours historique véhiculé par ces films (Bio/Pics, How Hollywood Constructed Public History, 1992, 5). Plus récemment, Ellen Cheshire a demandé si ce genre « calomnié et incompris » constitue un genre à part (Bio-Pics: A Life in Pictures, 2015, 3). Le biopic est, en effet, à l’origine de nombreuses controverses, non seulement en raison de sa prétention à la véracité historique, mais par sa praxis de l’intertextualité et de la réflexivité, ses dichotomies sexuelles, ou bien son attachement, encore aujourd’hui, à la tradition hagiographique susceptible d’affecter les stratégies visuelles et narratives des récits de vie filmiques. Ce numéro de la Revue LISA/LISA e-journal explore les divers mécanismes, modalités et conventions sur lesquels s’appuie la construction des « destins exceptionnels » à l’écran (cinéma/télévision).

Notez la publication dans

XIV-n°2 | 2016“Based upon a Life”: The Biopic Genre in Question

Conférence du Séminaire Biographie

Mercredi 14 décembre à 17h – Maison de la Recherche – salle 2.44

Tobias Heinrich

Austrian Lektor in German literature and language at New College, University of Oxford

Exemplary lives ­ Why we read biographies and what German Enlightenment has to say about it

Biographies are and have been since the eighteenth century one of the most popular genres on the book market: whether it be Plutarch’s lives of Alexander and Caesar, Hermione Lee’s award­winning biography of Virgina Woolf or Walter Isaacson’s best­selling book on Steve Jobs. This talk is going to examine the reasons for our ongoing fascination with biographies. In this respect, it will look at the German Enlightenment and the advocates of biography as the key genre of a hermeneutic worldview. The thoroughly modern assumption that man can be readable like a book is merged with older models of edification and spiritual formation through literature, resulting in the notion that we can acquire authority over our own biography only through the lens of the lives of others.