Metabiography pp 115-139 | Cite as

Medial Envy: Image-Text Relations in Biography

  • Caitríona Ní DhúillEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Life Writing book series (PSLW)


Biographies often include portraits, just as portraits suggest biographies. But the relationship of word and image in biography is not simply complementary. Charting the ways in which biographies push up against the medial boundaries between text and image, this chapter gleans new metabiographical insights from the venerable analogy between biography and portraiture. The chapter revisits historical debates on image-text relations, explores ekphrastic and pictorialist poetics, and acknowledges contemporary theories of intermediality, all with reference to metabiography. Across a range of biographical writings from Dryden to the present, the discussion attends to the shifting meanings but perennial appeal of the portrait analogy. Eschewing Nigel Hamilton’s subsumption of image and text under the umbrella term ‘life depiction’, the chapter argues that medial difference and incommensurability are of defining significance for biography’s effort to ‘write life’ and for a fuller appreciation of the visual, material, embodied and place-bound qualities of all lives.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College CorkCorkIreland

Personalised recommendations