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Biography and the Question of Literature in France$
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Ann Jefferson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199270842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199270842.001.0001

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Biographical Business in the Century of Biography: Dictionaries and the Press

Biographical Business in the Century of Biography: Dictionaries and the Press

Chapter:
(p.83) 4 Biographical Business in the Century of Biography: Dictionaries and the Press
Source:
Biography and the Question of Literature in France
Author(s):

Ann Jefferson (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199270842.003.0005

This chapter outlines two major cultural forms taken by biography in the 19th century, the biographical dictionary and the press article. It discusses Michaud's Biographie universelle, and traces some of the debates about the standing of biography in relation to history as illustrated by Cousin and Renan. The biographical dictionary is discussed as an attempt to give the form a respectability that is under threat from a comparison with history. The role of biography as a journalistic genre promoting a culture of celebrity is discussed with examples from Mirecourt and its condemnation by Barbey d'Aurevilly. Both cultural forms provided a model against which literary versions of biography were obliged to measure themselves.

Keywords:   biographical dictionary, the press, celebrity, Michaud, Biographie universelle, Cousin, Renan, d'Aurevilly, Mirecourt

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