Marrying life-writing with classical reception, this book examines ancient biography and its impact on subsequent ages. Close readings of ancient texts are framed by an assessment of their influence on the age of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and on the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, of responses to ancient biography of modern critics, and of its visible legacy in art and film. Crucially it asks what modern biographers can learn from their ancient predecessors. Are the challenges involved in life-writing still the same? Have working methods changed, and in what ways? What in the context of biographical writing is truth, and how are its interests best served? How is it possible, now as then, honestly to convey a life?
1. Chapter I: Paris in Parallel: Classical Biography in an Age of Revolution.
2. Chapter II: Ancient Biographers and Modern Classicists: “What is Truth?”.
3. Chapter III: Biography as Representation: Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.
4. Chapter IV: Biography as Censure: Suetonius and Procopius.
5. Chapter V: Biography as Persuasion: The Christian Gospels.
6. Chapter VI: Biography as Inner Drama: Athanasius’s Life of Saint Antony.
Robert Fraser is a biographer, critic and poet. The Chameleon Poet (2001), his biography of George Barker, was Spectator Book of the Year in 2002, and in May 2012 Night Thoughts, his life of David Gascoyne, topped the Independent’s list of Best Ten New Biographies. He has also published books on Marcel Proust (1994) and on the classicist and anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1990), whose magnum opus The Golden Bough he edited in 1994. He has held academic positions in Ghana, Leeds, London, and Trinity College Cambridge, UK. He is Emeritus Professor of Literature in the Open University, UK, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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