Biographical Fallacy

Entertainment / Literature / Biographical Fallacy: The error of believing, as George Kane phrases it in Chaucer studies, that 'speculative lives' of narrators and characters 'have some historical necessity' (17), i.e., characters and events in the author's historical life must have inspired, influenced, or been the source for any fictional events or characters in the work, or that the narrative speaker in a literary work must be synonymous with the author or poet's own voice and viewpoints. It was very common in nineteenth-century scholarship, for instance, to assume that Shakespeare's political or religious beliefs manifest in Prospero's words or Hamlet's soliloquies. The truth is often more complex, several of Shakespeare's characters in different plays express diametrically opposed viewpoints from each other, so which ones (if any) can we safely declare represent the playwright's personal perspectives? Even in cases where the narrator speaks in the first person, or when a character in a poem has the exact same name as the author, it proves impossible to prove that voice is identical with the author's personal beliefs. For example, the voice of 'Geoffrey' in The Canterbury Tales appears to be ignorant of details that the historical author Geoffrey Chaucer knew intimately, so his fictional character cannot be equated safely with the historical author Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote the work. Likewise, the voice speaking in the poem, 'Daddy,' by Sylvia Plath, refers to multiple suicide attempts and a father's early death, and these two details lure readers into equating that voice with the suicide attempts and abusive father in the poet Sylvia Plath's own life--even though the age of the father's death and the number of suicide attempts do not match Plath's age when she attempted suicide or her total number of suicide attempts. Trying to make a direct connection here results in the biographical fallacy.

Other Words for Fallacy

Fallacy Noun Synonyms: misconception, miscalculation, misjudgement, mistake, error, non sequitur, solecism, delusion, paralogism, sophism
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Pathetic Fallacy

Life Style / Poetry / Pathetic Fallacy: An expression that endows inanimate things with human feelings. MORE

Biographical Fallacy

Entertainment / Literature / Biographical Fallacy: The error of believing, as George Kane phrases it in Chaucer studies, that 'speculative lives' of narrators and characters 'have some historical necessity' (17), i.e., characters and events in the aut MORE

Autobiographical Novel

Entertainment / Literature / Autobiographical Novel: In contrast with the autobiography, an autobiographical novel is a semi-fictional narrative based in part on the author's life experience, but these experiences are often transposed onto a fictional c MORE

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