What is the biographical approach to literary criticism and how is it applied to novels?

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Biographical criticism uses details about an author's personal life to analyse the author's works. It relies on autobiographies, correspondence, and other primary materials about the author and is a form of historical criticism.

The main area in which it is useful is the "roman a clef", the sort of novel which is a thinly disguised account of real people, often including the author, such as Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Critics doing biographical analysis carefully examine incidents in the lives of authors and try to identify events, settings, objects, buildings, people, etc. found in the novels with historical sources.

The difficultly with this sort of criticism, and reason it has somewhat fallen out of favour, is that fictionalized accounts, even when they may have been inspired by actual events and people, often suffer a sea change when they are introduced into novels.

gaganwalia's profile pic

gaganwalia | College Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

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Biographical approach to criticism means while evaluating a work of art i.e. novel, fiction, drama poetry etc, when one also tends to look into the authors history , his personal life, his physical, psychological conditions of which the poetry is a product. The authors personal life and his times are taken into consideration while evaluating such works.

Example T S Eliot's Wasteland is a result of the social turmoil of his times or his other poems are vague becauseof his emotionally deteriorating conditions.

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