Introducing Metabiography

  • Caitríona Ní DhúillEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing book series (PSLW)


This chapter outlines key features of biography, understood as a cultural practice, narrative genre, and branch of historiography. From 1750 to the present day, debates on biography have encompassed a wide array of diverse, even incompatible, perspectives. Authors writing about biography contribute to debates about relationships between self and other, evidence and narrative, and individual lives and collective histories. If biography is a hybrid genre between fiction and history (as Virginia Woolf claimed), it follows that metabiography should draw on the insights of metahistory (Hayden White) and metafiction (Patricia Waugh and Linda Hutcheon) while adapting these approaches to the specific features of biography. Introducing subsequent chapters, this chapter argues that metabiography is a way of reading that can unsettle, perplex, and ultimately enrich approaches to biographical texts.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College CorkCorkIreland

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