Monday, February 25, 2013

What does the term biography mean as a writing genre?

By Dennis Mellersh

Biography writing as a genre is any written material which has as its main focus the overall history and significance of a person’s life.

When the written material is relatively short it is generally described by using the adjective “autobiographical” rather than being called a biography.

Examples would be biographical essays or biographical articles, such as those published in a magazine, newspaper, or on a website or blog. However, such abbreviated biographies could also be described as “brief” or “concise” biographies.

When most people use the term “a biography” they generally are referring to a book-length treatment of a person’s life. Although it could be a full length treatment in a movie or a video documentary.

Following are some of the terms used in connection with the writing of biography.

Historical biography: This term is somewhat of a redundancy as the term biography in itself implies that the writing emphasizes a historical perspective relating to the person who is the subject of the biography.

Contemporary biography: Although generally used to describe a biography of a living person, it can also refer to a biography of a diseased person who lived in a relatively recent time period.

Sometimes the term contemporary can refer to something or someone as being contemporary with, or of the same time period, such as Abraham Lincoln being a contemporary of Ulysses S. Grant.

Autobiography: This is a biography that an individual has written about themselves.

Memoir: Similar to an autobiography, but with more emphasis on personal reflections rather than on historical data about the person’s life.

Fictionalized biography: As the name implies, this involves the dramatization and imagining of particular events in a person’s life while maintaining overall accuracy in basic known facts about that person’s life. This is a popular approach in movies and novels.

Bio: This term is a colloquial expression for a resume, curriculum vitae (CV) or career accomplishments and core capabilities outline.

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