Biography and the Postmodern Historical Novel

Author: Keener, John


“In Biography and the Postmodern Historical Novel, John F. Keener describes and evaluates the ever-intensifying uneasiness felt by contemporary readers and critics when they confront real people in fictional texts. The book’s range and depth of analysis is impressive. The fortunes of Dutch Schultz, Lee Harvey Oswald and Richard Nixon at the hands of novelists, dramatists, film makers and composers receive close attention, and so do fictional representations of biographers themselves. The result is a sweeping yet meticulous study of the many forms of productive tension – ethical, political, philosophical, aesthetic – that readers and viewers increasingly encounter when exploring those postmodern textual spaces where history, biography, and art merge and collide.” – Craig Howes

“Surveying and situating himself within the theoretical discussions of the past several decades, John F. Keener argues for a new perspective by presenting biography as a dynamic activity rather than a static genre. He mediates the fiction/history dichotomy by envisioning biography and fiction not as distinct and separate opposites, but as a continuum of discursive practices. . . . This is an important book that will significantly augment the way we understand biography.” – Jonathan S. Cullick

“. . . continues the postmodern discussion that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. . . . In aligning biography more readily with the fictive than the historical Keener interrogates the genre in a number of interesting ways. His focus on representations of the lives of Richard Nixon, Dutch Schultz, and Lee Harvey Oswald gives his book a potential focus and a freshness often lacking in theoretical investigations of a genre. . . . Graduate and research collections.” - CHOICE

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface by Dr. Steven Weisenburger
Introduction: Biographical Narrative as ‘Magical Disturbance’
Part One: Biographical Narrative in Practice
1. French Canadian Bean Soup: Dutch Schultz, Deathbed Autobiography and the Postmodern Gangster Fiction
2. Conspiratorial Identity: Biography, Fiction, and the Oswald Enigma
3. Writing the Vacuum: Richard Nixon as Narrative Subject
Part Two: Biographical Narrative in Theory
4. The Problem of Genre I: Biography and/as History
5. The Problem of Genre II: Fictional Reality and Modes of Biographical Narrative
6. Theory Meets Practice: The Quest of the Biographer Hero
Afterword: Writing about Writing about the Historical Figure
Appendix: Text of the “Last Words of Dutch Schultz”
Bibliography; Index