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By Catherine M. Soussloff

This is often the 1st publication to research the artist's biography as a rhetorical shape and literary style instead of as an unassailable resource of truth and data.

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Extra info for Absolute Artist. The Historiography of a Concept

Sample text

It unfixes genre that changes with ostranenies. "24 To accept the position theorized by Shklovsky and Todorov for literature, and genre, would be to deny the fixating qualities inherent in genius or any rule-producing agent or discourse. Therefore, their understanding of genre is useful to this project but in a way other than what either intended: as a historically determined category that can be employed for an interpretation dependent on it. This understanding of genre will allow us to explore what happens to the artist-genius when he is placed in a dynamic, genre-dependent context.

35 Ekphrasis, in fact, was an ideal rhetorical form for insertion into the chronological narrative structure of biography because it was designed for inserting a description without interrupting the flow of narrative. 36 This kind of description established the standard form, that is, the generic conventions, for the description of the work of art that is still found in much contemporary art history, particularly the exhibition catalogue entry. In terms of the overall structure of the biography, the beginning and the end of the life are the chronological moments when the text ex- 34 / On the Threshold of Historiography pands or possesses the additional force of elaboration in terms of anecdote and description.

This is appropriate given the importance of beginnings and endings in all narratives, most especially in those that imply a historical reality. 37 The moment of the artist's birth, including prefigurations of his birth and his naming, are topics that are found elaborated upon in the beginning of the artist's Life. 39 Let me turn again to an example of the importance of one aspect of the early part of the biography of the artist, his naming, in order to demonstrate how this trope operates in the biographies of artists not only in the Early Modern period but later as well.

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