Challenging the Literary Genres: A. S. Byatt's The Biographer's Tale

Ozum A.

FOREIGN LITERATURE STUDIES, vol.36, no.4, pp.69-77, 2014 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 36 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.69-77
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


A. S. Byatt's novel The Biographer's Tale is about the journey of a postgraduate student Phineas Nanson into the nature and complex relationship of various genres such as biography, autobiography, history, memoir, scientific writing and historiography and into his own self. The novel is a parody of serious attitudes towards different literary genres even to literature itself and at the same time a kind of tribute to natural sciences represented by an ecologist and a bee specialist Fulla in the text. This essay underlines that Byatt in her novel problematically lays bare the complex relationship of opposite disciplines and concepts such as life and art, science and art, historiography and literature, and biography and autobiography. It questions the use of historical documentation in life writing based on so-called facts. The novel is postmodern both in its strategy of dealing with this plurality of genres and in its satiric stance towards them.