Constructing American Lives
Biography and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America
Scott E. Casper
Campaign biographies, memoirs of pious women, patriotic narratives of eminent statesmen, "mug books" that collected the lives of ordinary midwestern farmers--all were labeled "biography," however disparate their contents and the contexts of their creation, publication, and dissemination. Analyzing debates over how these diverse biographies should be written and read, Casper reveals larger disputes over the meaning of character, the definition of American history, and the place of American literary practices in a transatlantic world of letters. As much a personal experience as a literary genre, biography helped Americans imagine their own lives as well as the ones about which they wrote and read.