Portraits from Life: Modernist Novelists and Autobiography by Jerome Boyd Maunsell
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Overview: What happens when novelists write about their own lives directly, in memoirs and autobiographies, rather than in novels? How do they present themselves, and what do their self-portraits reveal? In a series of biographical case studies, Portraits from Life examines how seven canonical Modernist writers – Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, Wyndham Lewis, Gertrude Stein, H.G. Wells, and Edith Wharton – depicted themselves in their memoirs and autobiographies during the first half of the twentieth century.
Drawing on a range of life-writing sources in this innovative group portrait, Jerome Boyd Maunsell reconstructs the periods during which these authors worked on their memoirs, often towards the end of their lives, and shows how memoirs and autobiographies are just as artful as novels. The seven portraits in the book also create a rich network of encounters, as many of these writers knew each other, and wrote about each other in their reminiscences.
Portraits from Life investigates the difficulties and possibilities of autobiography – the relation of fact and fiction, biography and autobiography; the ethical issues of dealing with real people; the thin generic lines between novels and autobiographies; and the deceptive workings of memory – and how all these writers dealt with these concerns as they looked back on their lives. An act of portraiture and biography as well as an act of criticism, moving from London to Paris and through two world wars, it also pieces together a fresh and constantly inter-connecting narrative of the Modernist era in England and France.
Genre: Non-Fiction > Biographies & Memoirs