© 2020


Reflecting on Biography


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing book series (PSLW)

Table of contents

About this book


Metabiography is an intelligent, carefully argued, and substantial contribution to biographical criticism and theory. The comparative range, the easy yet thorough familiarity with existing scholarship, and the remarkable degree to which Caitríona Ní Dhúill anticipates and answers objections or responses to her argument, combine to produce an exciting, thoughtful, suggestive, and valuable intervention into the production and study of biography. The best book about biography I have read in many years.”

- Craig Howes, Director, Center for Biographical Research, Univerity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA

This book explores the contradictions of biography. It charts shifting approaches to the writing and reading of biographies, from post-hagiographical attitudes of the Enlightenment, heroic biographies of Romanticism and irreverent modernist portraits through to contemporary experiments in politically committed and hybrid forms of life writing. The book shows how biographical texts in fact destabilise the models of historical visibility, cultural prominence and narrative coherence that the genre itself seems to uphold. Addressing the fraught relationships between genre and gender, private and public, image and text, life and narrative that play out in the modern biographical tradition, Metabiography suggests new possibilities for reading, writing and thinking about this enduringly popular genre. 


Writing lives Essays Narratibility Carlyle Bergman German Biography Metabiography

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University College CorkCorkIreland

About the authors

Caitríona Ní Dhúill is professor in German at University College Cork and the author of Sex in Imagined Spaces: Gender and Utopia from More to Bloch (2010). She has worked at the universities of St Andrews, Vienna, and Durham, and at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the History and Theory of Biography, Vienna.

Bibliographic information


“By analyzing biographies from the end of the eighteenth century until today, Ní Dhuíll shows how the concept can help us understand how biographies have been written and why they have been written as they have. … Ní Dhuíll discusses the genre more from an outsider’s perspective … very fruitfully. … a deeper and wider insight into the challenges of biographical writing.” (Henrik Rosengren, European Journal of Life Writing, Vol. 9, 2020)