"Immortalities" ;and "Biographical quest in the Twenty-first Century: the origins and future of a genre reconsidered"

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“Immortalities” is a novel about memorialisation and mortality. Two biographers, Tom and Kristen, are drawn together on a quest to discover the truth about the eccentric Sinclair Morgan, who built a ten-storey library in Perth a century ago, and his librarian, Alice Greene, who mysteriously disappeared. Piecing together diaries and letters discovered in archives, a picture emerges of a millionaire who sought immortality and a high-achieving Aboriginal woman pretending to be white only to return to her roots after tragedy. Their lives are still echoing in the present. Morgan’s grandson, Sinclair IV, has lived his life protecting Morgan’s legacy but now must witness its dismantling as the library is corporatized and the great collection dispersed. Tom is himself the great-grandson of Alice and confronts the effect her secrets have had on his family. Against this backdrop, Tom and Kristen fall into an ill-fated romance as Tom’s obsession with death intensifies.
The novel fits within the “biographical quest” genre, and this is the topic examined in the dissertation. A genre featuring biographer protagonists who learn the truth about their subjects’ lives through discovered documents, the pre-eminent example is A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance. After evaluating definitions from Suzanne Keen and Jon Thiem, the dissertation reconsiders the genre’s origins, arguing that a key factor was the shift from the respectful biographies of the Victorian era to the preoccupation of twentieth century biography with “uncovering secrets”. This shift coincided with a recognition of the biographer’s presence in biography and the appearance of a minor subgenre of nonfiction biographical quests in the mould of A.J.A. Symons’s The Quest for Corvo. Considering the genre’s future, the dissertation argues that in the digital age the genre will continue to insist on the possibility of a ‘non-virtual’ past and retain a nostalgia for print.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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