chapter  5
30 Pages

Modernist biography and méconnaissance

76The Bloomsbury Group’s Oedipal resolution
ByKaryn Sproles

Jacques Lacan uses the term meconnaissance or misrecognition in his description of the mirror stage in creating a sense of ourselves that is bounded and autonomous when reflected back to us through the eyes of another. Traditional biography nonetheless persists in a quest toward the reductive rather than the transformational, and narrative expectations support this preference for stability. Biography gives life narrative shape, a stabilizing impulse Modernist literature challenges with its emphasis on interiority, experimentation, and iconoclasm. Modernist writers such as Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and Harold Nicolson made overt attempts to analyze and alter biographical practice, but that is not to say that biography has not undergone alterations. The biography presented a special challenge to Modernists, but it was not a challenge they eschewed. Modernism's interest in psychological interiority would seem to make experimentation with the study of a central subject ideal.