Sunday, May 20, 2007


Biography is a type of literature and further forms of media such as film, based on the written accounts of individual lives. While a biography may focus on a subject of fiction or non-fiction, the term is frequently in reference to non-fiction. Pat Shipman however, says "I think a good biographer has to write fiction some of the time to make apparent a significant event in someone's life." This is sometimes debated. As opposed to a profile or curriculum vitae, a biography develops a complex analysis of personality, highlighting different aspects of it and including intimate details of experiences. A biography is more than a list of distant facts like birth, education, work, relationships and death. It also delves into the emotions of experiencing such events.

Ancient Greeks developed the biographical tradition which we have inherited, although until the 5th century AD, when the word 'biographia' first appears, in Damascius' Life of Isodorus, biographical pieces were called simply "lives" . It is quite likely that the Greeks were drawing on a pre-existing eastern tradition; certainly Herodotus' Histories contains more exhaustive biographical information on Persian kings and subjects than on anyone else, implying he had a Persian source for it.


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