Affecting Lives: The Politics of Biography in Modern Italy, 1850-1881
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CitationHall, Kyle Matthew. 2013. Affecting Lives: The Politics of Biography in Modern Italy, 1850-1881. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis study examines the spread of in-life biographies (biographies written and published while their subjects were still alive) in Italy during the later years of the Risorgimento and the early years of Unification. These biographies, whose subjects ranged from the already famous to those being promoted as new political leaders, took a well-established literary form and applied it to the exigencies of the day. That this was a relatively new method of political engagement is seen through the numerous interventions by authors and editors justifying their choice of living subjects and excusing the fact that these were not traditional subjects with explanations of impartiality and necessity. As the Italian nation continued forward, such writings begin to be extended to less blatantly political subjects, such as the economic and social self-improvers touted by Michele Lessona (who followed the more famous Samuel Smiles of England) and the fictional Sicilian fishermen of Giovanni Verga's I Malavoglia. This continued push to describe in biographical terms the lives of living Italians reveals a widely neglected aspect of the biographical genre, namely that writing the life of a still-living figure is fundamentally different than writing the life of a deceased individual whose life course cannot be in any way changed by the publishing of a biography. The work that both begins and ends this study, a very early biography of Benito Mussolini, serves to illustrate the possibilities contained in this subgenre as well as the reasons for which it should continue to be studied as a form distinct from that of traditional biography.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10947432
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