U.S. Intellectual History Blog

The Politics of Biography

Continuing the theme of biography and autobiography from the previous post, some readers might be interested in the reflections of Kathleen Dalton in the most recent issue (October 2007) of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Dalton’s biography of Theodore Roosevelt, entitled Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, sought a middle ground between the laudatory images of TR popular in the trade press world and the dismissive, even cliched, understanding of scholars. Her decades-long project, in which she was hindered by access to papers, suffered an ambivalent relationship to the major gatekeepers and promoters of TR research, and worked against the weight of academic conventional wisdom, makes her keenly articulate on the challenges and possibilities of biography as intellectual form. -DS