The Seductions of Biography is an important volume which sheds new light on a flourishing literary form, the biography. In postmodern culture, new methods and intentions emerge, as well as new obstacles, towards our understanding of biography as a genre. This book provides a thorough exploration of this genre, from a wide range of postmodern perspectives. The Seductions of Biography brings together a number of essays which reflect in culturally critical as well as autobiographical terms on current themes and practices of contemporary biography. Issues addressed by these essays focus on the postmodern dilemma itself--as new voices from excluded communities make themselves heard in biographical works, the decentralization of new issues, such as gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, becomes problematic. Contributors question the responsibilities a biographer has, both to the subject and the public, and consider also questions of morality and taste; for example, is it fair to use private tapings made by your subject's analyst? And how much do we really need to know about Eleanor Roosevelt's sex life? The impact of sexuality on our reading of public figures is addressed, as well as other issues which explore the popular and provocative nature of biography. Interdisciplinary and wide-ranging in scope, The Seductions of Biography will appeal to biographers, historians, cultural critics, and the vast population of avid biography readers. Contributors: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Clark Blaise, Marilyn L. Brownstein, Blanche Wiesen Cook, John D'Emilio, Jeffrey Louis Decker, Michael Eric Dyson, Diana Fuss, Marjorie Garber, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Hayden Herrera, Maurice Isserman, Barbara Johnson, William S. McFeely, Diane Wood Middlebrook, Richard J. Powell, Phyllis Rose, Doris Sommer, Marita Sturken, Sherley Anne Williams, Jean Fagan Yellin

chapter |5 pages


The Seductions of Biography

part I|47 pages

Mass Media, Biography, and Cultural Memory

chapter |3 pages


chapter 2|11 pages

Personal Stories and National Meanings

Memory, Reenactment, and the Image

part II|28 pages

Private Lives, Public Figures

chapter 4|10 pages

Reading the Silences in a Gay Life

The Case of Bayard Rustin

chapter 6|8 pages

Michael Harrington

An “Other” American

part III|34 pages

Changing the Subject

chapter |3 pages


chapter 8|13 pages

Reconstructing Enterprise

Madam Walker Black Womanhood, and the Transformation of the American Culture of Success

chapter 9|4 pages

Frida Kahlo

Life into Art

part IV|56 pages

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

chapter |3 pages


chapter 13|26 pages

Taking a Life

Hot Pursuit and Cold Rewards in a Mexican Testimonial Novel

part V|37 pages

Postmodernism and the Possibility of Biography

chapter |3 pages


chapter 14|6 pages

Telling the Teller

Memoir and Story

chapter 15|15 pages

“Catastrophic Encoiinters”

Postmodern Biography as Witness to History

chapter 16|9 pages

Your Nearest Extt May be Behind You

Autobiography and the Post-Modernist Moment