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date: 20 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses life writing, which did not exist in any of the forms familiar to modern readers in 1550, but manifested in multiple and plural ways by 1700. It first outlines some critical and definitional issues. It then examines the origins, practices, and uses of what later might be called ‘biography’. Finally, it explores some examples of what Elspeth Graham calls ‘self-writing’, asking, in particular, why women found the business of writing lives (both their own, and those of individuals to whom they were closely linked) so amenable, and in what ways life-writing enabled (or disabled) female agency.

Keywords: English prose, prose writing, biography, self-writing, female agency

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