The American Biographical Novel

Author(s): Professor Michael Lackey

Literary theory

Before the 1970s, there were only a few acclaimed biographical novels. But starting in the 1980s, there was a veritable explosion of this genre of fiction, leading to the publication of spectacular biographical novels about figures as varied as Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and Marilyn Monroe, just to mention a notable few. This publication frenzy culminated in 1999 when two biographical novels (Michael Cunningham's The Hours and Russell Banks' Cloudsplitter) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and Cunningham's novel won the award. In The American Biographical Novel, Michael Lackey charts the shifts in intellectual history that made the biographical novel acceptable to the literary establishment and popular with the general reading public. More specifically, Lackey clarifies the origin and evolution of this genre of fiction, specifies the kind of 'truth' it communicates, provides a framework for identifying how this genre uniquely engages the political, and demonstrates how it gives readers new access to history.


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The American Biographical Novel examines the rise of this genre of fiction, how it engages and historicizes the political, the unique kind of `truth' it communicates, and how it contributes to our collective understanding of culture and consciousness.

Michael Lackey is Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, USA. He is the author of The Modernist God State: A Literary Study of the Nazis' Christian Reich (2012) and African American Atheists and Political Liberation: A Study of the Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Faith, which won the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title in 2008, and editor of The Haverford Discussions: A Black Integrationist Manifesto for Racial Justice (2013) and Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists (2014).

Chapter One: The Rise and Legitimization of the American Biographical Novel Chapter Two: The Fictional Truth of the Biographical Novel: The Case of Ludwig Wittgenstein Chapter Three: Surrealism, Historical Representation, and the Biographical Novel Chapter Four: Zora Neale Hurston and the Art of Political Critique in the Biblical Biographical Novel Chapter Five: Dual Temporal Truths in the Biographical novel Chapter Six: The Biographical Novel: A Misappropriated Life or a Truthful Fiction? Bibliography Index

General Fields

  • : 9781628926330
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • : April 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Professor Michael Lackey
  • : Paperback
  • : 288