Telling Women's Lives: The New Biography

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New Brunswick 1994 Hardcover 201 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. WOMEN'S STUDIES. Placing herself in the avid reader's chair, Linda Wagner-Martin writes about ... women's biography from George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Mead, and even to Cher and Elizabeth Taylor. Along the way, she looks at dozens of other life stories, probing at the differences between biographies of men and women, prevailing stereotypes about women's lives and roles, questions about what is public and private, and the hazy margins between autobiography, biography, and other genres. In quick paced and wide-ranging discussions, she looks at issues of authorial stance (who controls the narrative? who chooses which story to tell? ), voice (is this story told in the traditional objective tone? and if it is, what effect does that telling have on our reading? ), and the politics of publishing (why aren't more books about women's lives published? and when they are, what happens to their advertisi Read more Show Less

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Overview

Placing herself in the avid reader's chair, Linda Wagner-Martin writes about women's biography from George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Mead, and even to Cher and Elizabeth Taylor. Along the way, she looks at dozens of other life stories, probing at the differences between biographies of men and women, prevailing stereotypes about women's lives and roles, questions about what is public and private, and the hazy margins between autobiography, biography, and other genres. In quick-paced and wide-ranging discussions, she looks at issues of authorial stance who controls the narrative? who chooses which story to tell?, voice is this story told in the traditional objective tone? and if it is, what effect does that telling have on our reading?, and the politics of publishing why aren't more books about women's lives published? and when they are, what happens to their advertising budgets?. She discusses the problems of writing biography of achieving women who were also wives how does the biographer balance the two?, of daughters who attempt to write about their mothers, and of husbands trying to portray their wives. Amid the current controversy over biography as partial invention, she weighs the possibilities of ever achieving a true depiction of a life and outlines the responsibility of the biographer and the art of biographical writing. As an accomplished biographer herself, Wagner-Martin weaves comments about her experiences writing about Sylvia Plath, Ellen Glasgow, John Dos Passos, and, most recently, Gertrude Stein throughout her discussion. Her point of view is always illuminating, lively, and readable. Telling Women's Lives is the first overview of the writing and the history of biographies about women. It is a significant contribution to the reassessment of the work of the hundreds of women writers who have made a difference in our conception of what women's stories - and women's lives - have been, and are becoming. The bo
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wagner-Martin, who has written biographies of several women, including Sylvia Plath, here presents a lively and perceptive historical overview of women's biography as a genre. Early studies of women authored by men, such as Sir Leslie Stephen's monograph on George Eliot, suffered, she argues, from a bias that required biographers to force their subjects into a ``good woman'' mold. This, Wagner-Martin claims, led to serious distortion--as did the male tendency to view women primarily in relation to their husbands or fathers. The rise of feminism in the 1960s led to growing numbers of women writing about other women incisively, as exemplified by Blanche Wiesen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt and by Elizabeth Frank's Pulitzer Prize-winning Louise Bogan . Discussing both serious and popular biography and autobiography, Wagner-Martin analyzes the difficulties involved in reconstructing a life. Illustrations not seen by PW. July
School Library Journal
Wagner-Martin Sylvia Plath: A Biography, St. Martin's, 1988 has written an insightful introduction to the art of biography by and about women. The heart of the work is a cogent discussion of the differences inherent in biographies by men and those by women. Wagner-Martin talks of male biographers' tendency to ignore the domestic tensions to which women are subject and to delete data on topics such as rape and abuse. She also explores the problems of biographies of mothers by daughters and those written by men about female relatives; for example, she points out that biographies of George Eliot written by her husband and by her male friend Sir Leslie Stephen both gloss over her unhappiness at home and her liaisons with married men to emphasize Eliot's education and intellect. Recommended for academic libraries and all women's studies collections.-Sharon Firestone, Ross-Blakley Law Lib., Arizona State Univ., Tempe Wixson, Douglas.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813520926
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Pages: 226
  • Lexile: 1340L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Biography: The Old and the New 5
2 Telling Women's Lives 11
Controversial Material
Ethical Issues
Issues of Sentiment
Avoiding Stereotypical Responses
3 The Trap of the Stereotype 20
4 Relinquishing Stereotypes 30
Versions of the George Eliot Biography
The Stories of Emily Bronte
5 The Biographer's Problem: Women as Wives 44
The Search for Nora Joyce
The Several Hadley Hemingway Stories
The Presidential Wife Saga
6 A Woman's Self: Wives and Writers 57
The Lindbergh Legends
Women's Stories of the Exotic
7 The Power of Naming 69
Lillian Hellman's Memoirs
Stein, Woolf, and Parody
Critical Reaction
8 Listening to Women's Stories 85
9 Writing about Mothers 94
Absent Mothers
Famous Mothers
Scandalous Mothers
10 Taking Control of Story: Women's Voices 111
The Kate Chopin Biographies
The Edith Wharton Biographies
A Husband's (or Brother's) Control
11 Families of Women 124
Biographies of Women in Groups
Biographies of Friends and Foremothers
The Marginalized Subject and Readers
The Biographer's Need to Affirm
12 The Best of Them 135
Milford's Zelda
Thurman's Dinesen
Fitch's Bookshop Biography
Howard's Mead
A Pulitzer Winner
Bair's de Beauvoir
Davis's Nella Larsen
13 Popular Biography 151
14 Revisionist Biographies of Women 159
Biography: Moving toward Fiction?
Fiction: Moving toward Biography?
Further Definitions
Notes 173
Bibliography 183
Index 193
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