en1/6 | The Institute / Academic Advisory Board
President of Freie Universität Berlin and Professor of Modern German Literature, Berlin
'Biography must do both less and, at the same time, more than recount history, or illuminate life achievements, political careers, and works of art. It must concentrate on the depiction of an individual self-image, which in turn is produced in connection with the dominant cultural and social categories of any particular era. It is high time to reassess biography as an academic discipline, as it demands from the author great presence of mind, sophistication of style, and methodological training.'
Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development
'I should never wish to write a biography. But I admire those (rare) biographers who succeed in using detail to illuminate the general, without relativizing or overemphasizing the particular.'
Professor of English and American Studies, Mainz
'The international significance of (auto)biographical "egodocuments" is evidenced by the broad range of Anglo-American practice and research in life writing. More recent approaches mediate between life writing and life science, such that integrated ideas on human activities include physical and environmental elements. (Auto)biographical representations and research are thus linked globally across cultures, meaning that individual ways of life also contain statements about the whole of humanity and advance global consciousness.'
Professor of Modern German Literature, Göttingen
'All successful biographies resemble one another, while those that are less successful employ their own models. It remains to be seen how success can be balanced with individuality, and how the unhappy circumstance that biographies follow patterns can be approached, the more so in a society that sees itself as modern, and grants everyone the right to tell and retell life stories in new formats and media. The analysis of biographical models and the appetite for biographies in the modern period is thus no mean task.'
Professor of the History and Theory of Biography, Groningen
'There is, of course, no clear-cut definition of what constitutes a good biography. Naturally, the ideal biography is well written and shows that a life can only be understood in relation to its historical context. The research methodology must include the use of all available sources and every assertion ought to be substantiated by a source, just like in journalism and history. The subject’s private life should be used to explain and provide context for public matters. The self fashioning of the biographee is preferably tested against the views of others, for example his or her biographer.'