Biographical Criticism

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  • Topic: Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, Annabel Lee
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  • Published : July 17, 2012
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Biographical Criticism
Biographical criticism is the idea that knowing an author's experiences can help the reader to interpret and understand the author's text. Biographical critics believe it's essential to be aware of the time period and events at the time of the writing, and this will help them understand the work. By understanding what time period that the author was raised in, the audience, who has to have a common knowledge about general time periods, can understand why the author, or character, in the books does things or says things a certain way. Having the knowledge of the author's background (personal background and background of the time period) can reveal to the audience why authors have certain tones in most or all of their works. These ideas of Biographical Criticism do not always have to be labeled with just authors of writing (essays, poems, books, etc.), they can also be labeled as tones, attitudes, or biases with any type of author, artist, or person. Being raised a certain way can lead to a person's opinion on certain subjects being biased with the people who raised him. A person also having certain hardships or obstacles in his or her life can lead to him or her having a hatred for those hardships, or having an appreciation for people or things who do or make that hardship or obstacle easier now.

Example: Eminem's music and attitude towards women could be misunderstood without knowing his background and childhood. His mother was psychologically and physically abusive toward him when he was a child, and both she and his wife sued him when he became rich. He has had a lot of problems with the adult women in his life.

Biographical criticism looks at the text’s ideas based on the historical period and culture during the author’s life. These cultural aspects that underlie the story vary based on when and where the author lived. The text can reflect on the author’s own life. Often, the main ideas the author writes about are based on cultural beliefs of the time. An excellent example is in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain himself lived in the same culture as the characters in the book. If the reader has no knowledge of the culture in the deep South during that time period, Which Twain observed himself, many ideas that he instilled in the story are overlooked. However, when aware of the overt racism of the culture of the time, the fact that young, white Huckleberry took on Tom, a black man, as a father figure, deeper meanings can be found. Twain noted racism he saw in his own life, and commented on it in his story. Other aspects of culture can be viewed as well, such as gender relations, technology, religion, political beliefs, and others. These can relate to other types of analyses, but it is important that a biographical criticism deals with ideas that the book shares with the author's life. http://english23405.tripod.com/english234.html

http://www.neabigread.org/teachers_guides/lesson_plans/longfellow_lessons/longfellow_lesson_two.pdf Examining an author’s life can inform and expand a literary text. Biographical criticism is the practice of analyzing a literary work through the lens of an author’s experience. Some poems depend on a reader’s knowledge of biographical facts. However, readers should be careful not to assume that the speaker of a poem is necessarily the poet. When we read a poem, one of our first questions should be: whose “voice” is speaking to us? Sometimes a poet will create a persona, a fictitious speaker. This speaker may not always be human. A speaker may be an animal or object, and good poems have been written from perspectives as various as a hawk, a clock, or a cloud.

http://www.cla.purdue.edu/people/engl/blackmon/102cs2001/critical.html#bio

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