“Literariness vs Documentality” as an authorial strategy in the contemporary biography (based on the series “Zhizn’ Zamechatel’nykh Lyudei” (Life of Remarkable People)

Abstract: 

The biographical genre is traditionally popular with Russian readers and this tradition dates back to the Soviet era when the book series “Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh lyudei” was extremely popular on the book market. Recently this interest has decreased to some extent, although certain books have provoked discussions not only in literary criticism, but also in literary studies. On the other hand, the biography industry constitutes a considerable part of the book market in the West, thus new biographical technologies and individual know-how have become the subject of a special research analysis.

Despite the fact that the range of works, devoted to theoretical and historical aspects of the biographical genre, is quite large, and the names of their authors (from G. Mish to M. Bakhtin, S. Averintsev, N. Bogomolov, etc.) are treated with reverence, nowadays biography that exists in new sociocultural and literary conditions needs new understanding for the reasons of great pressure exercised by the publishing industry and the mass culture society. In this context, the book series “Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh lyudei” requires a careful analysis of the author's strategies, used in its creation, of the system of the “serial” preferences and reasons for the preservation / destruction of the genre conventions. The selected biographies of prominent Russian literary scholars M. Bakhtin, D. Likhachev and V. Shklovskiy make it possible to speak of the main trends in the development of the literary biography subgenre and to identify the consequences of using such authorial strategy as excessive and aggressive literariness at the expense of traditional documentality.

Key words: 

biographical genre, the book series “Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh lyudei”, authortal strategy, literariness, documentality, M. M. Bakhtin, D. S. Likhachev, V. B. Shklovskiy.

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