Auto/Biographies in American History
In Zusammenarbeit mit der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien
Leitung: Michael Mayer / Volker Depkat
Sekretariat: HSCHENCK, Tel.: 08158 / 256-0
Biography and autobiography are central to the study of American history, and this not only because U.S. history was structured and shaped by a specific and yet diverse set of historical actors. Rather, a culture based on individualism, "doability", and achievement seems to systematically create an interest in the lives of men and women acting in the contexts of their times. The popularity and presence of biography and autobiography in American historiography stands in stark contrast to the theoretical endeavors of the field. Until recently, the biographical genre moved in the long shadow of Leon Edel and his model of the "secret-self-biography." In the 1990s, the project of a "new biography" began to unfold, which has not only expanded the range of American biographical practice in general, but also challenges some of the key premises upon which the biographical tradition rests. Historians were - and in many cases still are -reluctant to receive the theoretical debates primarily led by literary and cultural critics. The conference brings together practitioners in the field of biography and theoreticians from the field of literary studies to discuss the opportunities and limits of the current interdisciplinary debates about life writing.