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A biography or biography ( ancient Greek βιογραφία biographia , compound from βίος bíos , German 'life' and graphics , from γράφω gráphō , German 'scratch' , 'paint', 'write') is the description of a person's life . Biographies can trace a person's life story orally or in writing . A special case is the autobiography written by the person concerned , possibly with the support of a ghostwriter .

Sometimes autobiographies are added to the will; a trace of life should remain - the offspring should know what was. The Rapiarium is a kind of short autobiographical report .

Describing the curriculum vitae also includes the possibility of subsequent construction of a certain meaningfulness of the life described. This leads to the question of the subjectively understood life. Everyone draws up their own biography in different life situations (during job interviews, when establishing personal relationships or more generally when looking back at their own life, e.g. with a psychologist or psychiatrist). Biographies are also an important tool for remembering other people. They are therefore the subject of literary and historical studies, sociology, pedagogy, psychology, medicine and theology. The individual fields of work and objects of work in biography research are very heterogeneous and have developed their own research traditions.

Adi Holzer : curriculum vitae (1997).
The artist graphically depicts the course of life as a balanced tightrope act.

Literary genre

As a literary genre , biography mostly deals with people from public life such as politicians, scientists, athletes, artists or people who have made an important contribution to society through their work. Important literary biographers in the German language were and are, for example, Karl August Varnhagen von Ense , Stefan Zweig , Emil Ludwig and Golo Mann . Many biographical texts mix historical facts with free inventions ( biographical novel , historical novel ).

An early example of the heroic biography in the form of an autobiography of a political ruler from antiquity is the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (also: Monumentum Ancyranum ) . But the biographies of some (up to then) unknown people are also widespread (e.g. Anna Wimschneider , Herbstmilch ).

Life pictures are mostly short biographies of people without historical rank. They are often written by genealogists , family and local history researchers , while biographies are written by biographers . The persons described are, depending on their claim, historical significance or interpretation, relatives , ordinary people or historical, cultural or important personalities. Colloquially, the (shorthand) curriculum vitae of a person is sometimes referred to as their biography (also known as “ Vita ”).

Dealing with one's own biography - one's own résumé - is, among other things, a. Content of the psychoanalytically oriented biography work .


The origins of biography in ancient Greece

Modern definitions

According to Arnaldo Momigliano , the biography is simply the representation of a person's life from birth to death, according to Friedrich Leo the chronological representation from birth to death, grouping of events around the main character, recording life according to categories, moral-didactic orientation. These are modern versions of ancient biography, but no literary theory of their own as formulated in ancient times.

According to Leo, there are two forms, of which the first, not literarily demanding, is intended for persons of intellectual life, the second, clearly more qualitative form, is intended for politicians, kings and generals (school of Peripatos ). However, this view was shaken by the discovery of the Euripides biography of Satyros von Kallatis in dialogue form.

Originated in the fourth century BC Chr.

The biography originated in the fourth century BC. As a product of the transition from the dissolving polis culture of the classical period to the monarchy of the Hellenistic period . The prevailing ideal in the democratic polis was that it was not just a sum of individuals, but a real community. The development initiated after the Peloponnesian War and driven by Philip II of Macedonia and Alexander the Great led the Greeks to a stronger emphasis on the individual. Historiography is characteristic of the Polis era , while biography is characteristic of the Hellenistic era.

The biographies of poets and scholars also sprouted, as individualization also found its way here. It was no longer enough to have the works of the poets; one wanted to read the Viten as well . The prototype for the biographies of poets and scholars is Plato's Apology , which contains numerous biographical notes on the life of Socrates . It is only part of a pronounced Socrates literature, which also consists mainly of the Platonic and Xenophontic dialogues.

The biography as a literary genre can be assessed as an indication of certain political-social processes on the basis of the points mentioned. Something completely different is the résumé or even the tabular résumé (the vita) in a written job application , which particularly addresses the professional characteristics of the applicant and should present them as positively as possible.

The biography in Greece of the fifth century

The biographical digressions in the works of the historians Herodotus and Thucydides fall outside the scope of the processes described in the last section .

Herodotus describes the life of Cyrus in his histories in the categories already known (I, 107-130: descent, birth, childhood and youth; I, 177-188: selected deeds and achievements; I, 201-214: last campaign and death ) and Cambyses (III, 1-66). These two vitae are shaped by excursions and many stories on the side. These biographies, which were extraordinary for the Polis period, are likely to have two reasons: on the one hand, both were portrayed precisely because they were not Greeks, but exponents of a monarchist regime, which was already impressively outlined in Aeschylus ' Persians , and on the other hand there were numerous Sources from inscriptions tell a lot about the kings. Herodotus, who came from Asia Minor, combined the peculiarities of the cultures that came into contact here.

Thucydides describes in the framework of Pentecontaetie , in chapters 135-138 of the first book of his history of the Peloponnesian War, the life of Themistocles between exile and death and before in chapters 128-134 the fate of the Spartan Pausanias . Both episodes tell the story of exiled politicians who have made a contribution to their poleis. Taking into account the fate of Thucydides, who was banished himself, one should not regard these passages as character studies and reflections on the two people, but rather as a criticism in dealing with deserving personalities in the polis.

The only complete biography of that time is considered to be the work of Skylax von Karyanda, who tells the life of Herakleides of Mylassa . Here again the point relevant to Herodotus is interesting, that it is the hinge between the cultures: Herakleides was Karer , so came from Asia Minor .

The biography in the classical period of Greece

Isocrates created from the genres of the enkomions , a song composed in verse, which was never sung to politicians, but to people from artistic and athletic circles (e.g. Pindar and others with their epinicias ), and the Epitaphios , a funeral oration for the War dead, d. H. not on individuals, but on the collective of the fallen (e.g. the Epitaph of Pericles on the fallen of the Peloponnesian War in Thucydides II, 34–46) the new genre of a prose encomion in his Vita des Euagoras I. The same perhaps became between 370 and 365 BC In any case early after the death of Euagoras in 373 BC. In the eighth chapter of his foreword (cap. 1–11) Isocrates describes that he combines both genres and is thus aware of innovation. In chapters 12-21 there follows his report on the origin and family of the Euagoras, then the description of the childhood of Euagoras (cf. 22 f.), From chapter 24 onwards the political career of Euagoras. At the end, Isocrates instructs the son of Euagoras to emulate his father. Characteristic of this work is the elevation of Euagoras above others, yes, the elevation near the gods. Isocrates thus postulates the high individuality of his subject.

Xenophon wrote the biography of Agesilaos and the Kyrupaideia . In the Agesilaus biography, which is significantly shorter than that of Isocrates on Euagoras, he praises the Spartan king Agesilaus. Xenophon had settled in Sparta after the campaign of Cyrus against his brother, the Persian king Artaxerxes, whom he processed in the Anabasis , and made friends with Agesilaos. This biography clearly beautifies the life of Agesilaos and leaves out details. Proof of this are Xenophons Hellenika , who report details from the life of Agesilaos which apparently do not fit into the encomiastic mood of his biography. (Structure: cap. 1,1–5: introduction, intention of praise, origin; 1,6–2,31: praising representation of the deeds (omitting and fining); 3,1–10,4: catalog of the Aretai des Agesilaos; 11: Summary. Special feature: possibility of comparison between the biographer Xenophon and the historiographer Xenophon.)

The Kyrupaideia , which combines several genres (history, historical novel, didactic novel, educational pamphlet , military manual, enkomion) can not be clearly assigned to the biography . Much is imagination, digressions serve as evidence of good personal shape. In the end Xenophon compares the current Persia with the Persia of Cyrus and draws up a devastating judgment on the Persia of his time.

Greek biography in Hellenism and the early Imperial period

The developments mentioned above are fully developed, the Hellenistic monarchy has completely displaced the polis system. As the age of the individual, Hellenism virtually required the lives of politicians, generals, artists and philosophers. This was probably reflected in a very large number of texts that have largely not survived, as is generally typical of Hellenism. It is unknown how great the biographical production actually was.

Theophrast's characters are not biographies in the strict sense of the word, but rather represent patterns of behavior. They may have served as empirical studies for a larger work. Theophrast belonged to the Peripatos , who at least gave the name to a biographical direction. The characters direct the focus very strongly on the individual and on the individual character. This will shape the rest of the Hellenistic biography.

Aristoxenus from Taranto (* 370 BC; death unclear) wrote numerous works (453 books in total) and was the competitor of Theophrastus for the successor of Aristotle as Scholarch of Peripatos. Unlike other peripatetics, he was not generally versed, but specialized in music and biography. He wrote mainly philosopher biographies, perhaps also a biography of Alexander, since Plutarch refers to a description of Alexander by Aristoxenus.

Hermippos from Smyrna (* between 289 and 277 BC; † after the death of Chrysippus , who died between 208 and 204 BC) further developed the biography of the Peripatetic. He himself did not belong to this school, but lived in Alexandria . Plutarch refers to Hermippus in several places. He seems to have written numerous biographies. Suetonius is said to be similar to Hermippos for two reasons: on the one hand, both talk and anecdotes flow into it, and on the other hand, both have numerous source material, because Hermippus was able to access the library in Alexandria, while Suetonius had the imperial archive under himself.

Satyros was born on the Black Sea. His life dates cannot be determined in more detail, but his life must be before the reign of Ptolemy VI. Philometor (180–145 BC) or reached into the reign. The evidence of Satyros is scarce. In 1912 a papyrus with a longer section from a biography of Euripides was found in Oxyrhynchos. Historians see this as evidence of Hellenism's unbroken interest in the great classics. But there are two features of this biography: Satyros did not conduct any source research, but rather the facts from the tragedies of Euripides himself and from the comedies of Aristophanes, who even outlined Euripides as a misogynist. In addition, Satyros wrote this biography as a dialogue in which the author himself is the interlocutor of Euripides. There is evidence of biographies of Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Diogenes, Alkibiades, Dionysius II of Syracuse and Philip II of Macedonia, as well as the seven wise men. He also wrote a work called About Characters .

Antigonus of Karystos (second half of the third century) wrote exclusively philosopher biographies. He did not write chronologically or according to a system, but tried to draw character pictures. Most of his biographies describe the path to philosophy and death, so they do not encompass life. Diogenes Laertios referred to him later in the third century AD.

Alkidamas (around 400 BC) wrote the famous Certamen Homeri et Hesiodi , in which Homer and Hesiod compete with each other. It is written in hexameters and also contains biographical information.

Cornelius Nepos is an important representative of this literary genre in Roman literature .

Probably the most famous biographies of our culture can be found in the New Testament and are to be assigned to the excesses of Hellenistic literature, since the canonical evangelists are considered Hellenistic educated, this seems to be clear in Luke.

The Gospels have biographical features, contain the birth (all except Mk), the genealogy (Mt, Lk), the deeds of Jesus, his trial and ultimately death, as well as the resurrection as an addition and novelty to the ancient biography. This emerges most clearly in Luke: Prooimion, announcements of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, births, baptism, family tree, sermons / parables / miracles, communion, betrayal, trial, death, resurrection, ascension. With the Ascension, the personalized presentation of the history of the core of Christianity ends. Now the person Jesus no longer plays the major role for the rest of the story, but the community of the disciples, which means that Luke switches to historiography after the ascension to heaven. This is downright the process of individualization, just the other way around.


Plutarchs Bíoi parállēloi (English edition from 1727)

Plutarch was born in Chaironeia in Boeotia in 45 AD . His family was wealthy. Since he was financially independent, he was able to study philosophy in Athens. Plutarch became a philosophy scientist, so he was not a philosopher who formulated his own doctrine. After completing his studies, he returned to Chaironeia and stayed there, apart from a few trips. In Rome he met the emperor's confidante Quintus Sosius Senecio. He owed his citizenship to Lucius Mestrius Florus, for which he took the name Mestrius Plutarchus. He held some offices in Chaironeia and was a member of the Delphi priestly quorum. Plutarch died in 125 AD. The majority of his work took up the Moralia , which consisted of 78 individual writings and deal with popular historical, philosophical and everyday questions.

Plutarch wrote biographies for the emperors from Augustus to Vitellius . The biographies of Galba and Otho have survived, fragments of Tiberius and Nero have survived, the rest has been lost. The imperial vitae continuously tell the story and are not worked as individual vitae.

The parallel biographies (gr. Οἱ βίοι παράλληλοι, hoi bíoi parállēloi , Latin vitae parallelae) of Plutarch each show a Greek and a Roman who were connected by special achievements, properties or qualities. The parallel biographies are therefore not intended as a designation for biographies that describe the vitae of people living in parallel. The order in which Plutarch wrote is unknown, in today's editions the biographies are arranged according to the dates of the respective Greek person. In the Perikles-Vita we receive the information that Plutarch did not plan the Viten as a complete work, but wrote and published them step by step. The parallel biographies have survived except for a couple: Epaminondas and Scipio Africanus have been lost. According to the assumption, they formed the beginning of the parallel biographies. The couples: Theseus / Romulus: city founder; Lykurg / Numa Pompilius: legislator; Solon / Poplica: Reformer; Aristeides / Cato the Elder: outstanding politicians with strict moral standards; Themistocles / Camillus: outstanding military and strategic achievements; Kimon / Lucullus: military quality; Pericles / Fabius Maximus: first misunderstood, then confirmed and both hesitants; Nikias / Crassus: great military defeat with personal death; Alkibiades / Coriolan: changed sides in arguments; Lysandros / Sulla: military merits; Agesilaos / Pompey: military talent; Pelopidas / Marcellus: military skills; Dion / Brutus: fight against tyrants; Timoleon / Aemilius Paullus: "political organizers"; Demosthenes / Cicero: outstanding speakers, put skills at the service of the struggle for freedom; Phokion / Cato the Younger: Fight for freedom and self-determination; Alexander / Caesar: generals; Eumenes / Sertorius: as a foreigner military leader; Demetrios / Antonius: mixture of positive and negative qualities; Pyrrhos / Marius: military qualities; Agis and Kleomenos / Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus: social reformers; Philopoimen / Flaminius: benefactor of the Greeks, specialty: both contemporaries of Plutarch and, unlike everyone else, had something to do with each other.

One wonders what made Plutarch write such biographies. It may have been the attempt to compare the great personalities of Greece with Romans in order to show the equality of Romans and Greeks. Furthermore, at the time in which he wrote the parallel biographies (1st half of the 1st century), there was a pronounced Greek friendliness in the cultural field.

Present tendencies

Which classes of people (politicians, thinkers, artists, etc.) arouse public interest and therefore become the subject of biographies depends on the respective culture. As Ernst Peter Fischer has shown, there is currently hardly any interest in the biographies of scientists in German-speaking countries, but all the more interest in, for example, the biographies of philosophers. He gives examples of biographies of important German researchers that were written in English, while corresponding German-language publications are still missing.


An autobiography ("self-description") is present if the biography is written by the person concerned or is at least considered to be the author. Many celebrities also had a professional ghostwriter at their side.

An important autobiography is the Monumentum Ancyranum of Emperor Augustus from the year 13 AD, which is almost completely preserved as an inscription.

The first of the self-reflections of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius already contains a lot of autobiographical information . The first autobiography in the true sense of the word are the " Confessions " of Aurelius Augustine ; he wrote them in 397 and 398.

The memoirs ("memories") also belong to the autobiographical texts . With them, the emphasis is often more on the outstanding events of interest to the general public and the author takes a broader look at all the people involved.

Life as a sequence of different events

Types of events

A curriculum vitae can consist of a sequence of different events. Some are predictable and, for many people in a generation, are very likely within a period of life = normative events

Other events have a historical character. Everyone living in this country has heard of it, seen it. However, the meaning is very different depending on the person affected and the age. (Examples: World War II, the fall of the Berlin Wall, September 11, 2001)

Critical life events can turn a résumé in an unexpected direction, but this life crisis can later have positive consequences. This positive or negative turn cannot be foreseen with certainty (more likely to be feared).

Examples: accidents, death of the spouse, serious illness of family members, permanent job loss, participation in war events. Been through a period of hunger - for many very old people it even happened three times in the course of their lives: after 1918, 1927–1931 and again after 1944 (this is an example where it mixes with contemporary events). Divorce or life-threatening illness.

“Brittle” résumés are biographies that deviate several times from the course of most people in a comparable social position. They are usually rarely featured in the family saga. It is Z. B. the role of the black sheep . The division of life stages in biographies can also vary - the example of youth and childhood have a different meaning today than at the time of the Industrial Revolution.

Example of the composition of a “typical” life story

A “typical” life story follows, made up of the above-mentioned types of events.

  • Childhood, parental home, siblings
    • typical normative events: birth of siblings, attendance at kindergarten
  • School time (up to about 17 years)
    • Typical normative events: 1st day of school, 1st Holy Communion (r.kath.), certificates, school friendships, school graduation (previously common at 14)
    • In this phase the first memories of a “political” / historical event often fall that are classified as “important” for the biography. (e.g. fall of the wall)
  • Youth, vocational training
    • typical normative events: confirmation (evang.), 1st day of the Apprenticeship, moped driving license, acquittal, armed forces / community service (for young men), school leaving certificate, moving out of the parental home
    • Puberty, first love
    • possibly continue Attending school (secondary school leaving certificate, Abitur), possibly studying
  • Young. Adults
    • typical normative event: driver's license, in love / married / pregnant or similar, first major trip abroad without parents
  • Time d. Starting a family
    • typical normative event: wedding, baptism
  • raising children
    • typical normative events: moving / building a house, holidays together, family celebrations
  • Post-parental companionship (expression for the period of time after the children have moved out of the parental home)
    • typical normative event: extract d. last mentioned child, celebrations at work, silver weddings
  • Older workers
    • Typical normative events: assuming a management position in the company, acceptance speech by the boss on retirement. You “live” as a grandmother / father.
  • Transition to retirement age (possibly combined with the previous phase)
  • Widowhood (a common life situation for women )
    • typical normative event: death d. Husband's around 70-75 years old, moving into the household of an adult child, becoming a great-grandmother
    • Critical events: Accumulation of serious illnesses to a massive handicap in everyday life, thinking about the end of life, desire to put the estate in order
  • Old age
    • typical normative events: celebration on milestone birthdays, moving to a nursing home
    • Attribution of age wisdom

The biographical method in the social sciences

Biography research is a research approach of qualitative social research in sociology and deals with the reconstruction of life courses and the underlying, individually mediated, social constructions of meaning based on biographical narratives or personal documents. The text material usually consists of written interview minutes, which are evaluated and interpreted according to certain rules.

Qualitative research approach

Biography research is to be assessed as an individual case study within the framework of qualitative research approaches. The choice to conduct individual case studies indicates an approach to the research field and not yet a method.

Biography research does not use a single method for data evaluation, but is to be understood as a research approach in which various methods are applied. The most frequently used method of collecting data from living people is the narrative interview (“let them tell”) and / or the open guided interview (questioning), otherwise the classic (socio) historical source development up to modern content analysis predominates.

In gerontology , the “biographical method” is the systematic exploration of a person's résumé as part of a larger research project. The questions asked to support the memory must be checked for their openness or closedness so that the narrator is not restricted from the outset by the interviewer to one direction of view. For this purpose, a guide must be drawn up and checked for various requirements.

life span

As the life span progresses, there is a constant change in social roles that an individual assumes and loses (e.g. Miss Xyz, mother, empty nest, retirement). This also changes the personal perception of one's own role and tasks. According to Ursula Lehr , an average of 17.5 distinctive cuts are observed per biography. 2/3 of them as negative, 1/3 as positive. Women report more interpersonal issues, men more factual, career-oriented.

However, life experience can hardly be viewed as just going through a normal biography . The word 'choice biography' is more appropriate because today's modernization of society lies primarily in the differentiation of life and family forms.

The possible approach in a study

Technically, this research approach means comparing different biographies under common organizational categories. For this purpose, the orally recorded biographies are transferred into writing (transcribed). The interviews are then evaluated by at least two people (English: rating / spoken: rähting, or new German rated).

This enables comparisons between several biographies, e.g. B. whether they contain statements on the research topic. Two analysts then compare their respective assessments of how strongly these categories appear in the biography. (H. Thomae)

Dimensions of the biography

Ten dimensions of the age biography according to Hans Thomae are to be considered: genetic and nutritional situation at the beginning of the aging process, changes in the biological system, changes in the social system, socio-economic status, ecological changes, changes in the cognitive system, constancy and changes in personality, individual living space, (Subjectively experienced) life satisfaction or degree of balance between needs and situation, ability to create this balance, and social competence (ability to live independently, responsibly and task-related).

Aging and biography as a task

Various phase teachings in sociology and developmental psychology describe sections and tasks that have to be fulfilled at this particular age (section); z. B. Self-realization, creating order, wisdom. This gave rise to the psychological attempt to describe developmental tasks. The goal can be satisfaction with your own history, your own life, but also new tasks for yourself.

While there used to be relatively clear ideas about the four phases of childhood, young adult, adult, grandparent (with a seamless transition into the phase of a very old person / old man), today we can already speak of seven clearly different phases of life. They each have their own role definitions and behavioral patterns. The separate sections youth, pensioners, very old people have been added.

The grandparent phase currently begins a little later than at the beginning of the 20th century and roughly corresponds to the term “ older workers ” in working life . The Gerontology indicates an increasing differentiation of the aging period. The earlier stepless transition from here to old age has ceased to exist due to the extension of life. Centenarians are special, but certainly no longer an exception. Ninety-year-olds and centenarians can have very different living environments around them.

Gerontology and Biography

Towards the end of their life, many people have a need for a life review; they think about their life and want to appreciate it in its entirety and understand it as meaningful. In different settings, people are instructed to review their lives, including a. in life review therapy and in biography work (see Maercker & Forstmeier 2013). A distinction is made between an outer biography , which can be objectively structured on the basis of dates and time periods, and an inner biography , which subjectively assesses events and developments.

In the professional care of the elderly , the biography brings advantages in a "personalization" of the previously relatively anonymous patients / customers in the home. Because many people move there without their life story being known. You initially appear as a collection of problematic situations and not necessarily as a personality that has matured over decades . Relatives who could be interviewed are sometimes not known. So the biography there is initially like a puzzle with many blank spaces that can only gradually be filled with the events of individual life.

See also

Portal: Biographies  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of biographies


Theory of biography in general

Biography as a literary genre

  • Helga Arend: For the rehabilitation of scientific biographies based on current Kleist biographies. In: Wirkendes Wort 59, Issue 2, 2009, pp. 225–236.
  • Gereon Becht-Jördens : Biography as salvation history. A paradigm shift in genre development. Prolegomena to a formal historical interpretation of Einhart's Vita Karoli. In: Andrea Jördens et al. (Ed.): Quaerite faciem eius semper. Studies on the intellectual-historical relationships between antiquity and Christianity. Thank you for Albrecht Dihle on his 85th birthday from the Heidelberg Church Fathers Colloquium. Studies on Church History 8. Kovac, Hamburg 2008, pp. 1–21.
  • Walter Berschin : biography and epoch style in the Latin Middle Ages. (Sources and studies on the Latin philology of the Middle Ages 8-10; 12; 15), Volumes 1–5. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1986-2004.
  • Walter Berschin: Striking forms of Latin biography in late antiquity and the Middle Ages (IV.-XII. Centuries). In: La biography antique. Huit exposés suivis de discussions. (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique 44). Fondation Hardt, Vandoeuvres-Genève 1998, pp. 63-82.
  • Walter Berschin (Ed.): Biography between Renaissance and Baroque. Mattes, Heidelberg 1993.
  • Pierre Bourdieu : The Biographical Illusion. In: BIOS . 1990, issue 1.
  • Patricia Cox : Biography in Late antiquity. A Quest for the Holy Man. (Transformation of the Classical Heritage 5). University of California Press, Los Angeles, Berkeley 1983.
  • Albrecht Dihle : To the ancient biography. In: La biography antique. Huit exposés suivis de discussions. (Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique 44). Fondation Hardt, Vandoeuvres-Genève 1998, pp. 119-146.
  • Albrecht Dihle: Ancient Foundations. In: Walter Berschin (Hrsg.): Biography between Renaissance and Baroque. Mattes, Heidelberg 1993, pp. 1-22.
  • Albrecht Dihle: The Origin of the Historical Biography. (Meeting reports of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, Phil.- hist. Class 1986, 3). Winter, Heidelberg 1987.
  • Albrecht Dihle: Studies on the Greek biography. (Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Phil.-hist. Class 3). 2nd Edition. Goettingen 1970.
  • MJ Edwards , Simon Swain (Eds.): Portraits. Biographical Representation in the Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1997.
  • Eva Elm : The power of wisdom. The image of the bishop in the Vita Augustini of Possidius and other late antique and early medieval bishops' lives. Brill, Leiden et al. 2003.
  • Tomas Hägg , Philip Rousseau (Eds.): Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity. (Rhetoric and Translation of Culture. Colloquium at the University of Bergen, August 1996). University of California Press, Los Angeles Berkeley 2000.
  • Bernhard Fetz (ed.): The biography - to the foundation of their theory . With the collaboration of Hannes Schweiger. de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
  • Christian Klein (Hrsg.): Handbuch Biographie. Methods, traditions, theories . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2009.
  • Siegfried Kracauer : Biography as a new bourgeois art form . In: Ders., The Ornament of the Mass . Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1977, pp. 75-80.
  • Ira Bruce Nadel : Fiction, Fact and Form. London and Basingstoke 1984.
  • Osborn, Schweitzer, Trilling: Remember. Lambertus 1997, ISBN 3-7841-0932-2 .
  • Helmut Scheuer : biography. Studies on the function and change of a literary genre from the 18th century to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart 1979.
  • Dorothea Walz (Ed.): Scripturus vitam. Latin biography from ancient times to the present. Ceremony for Walter Berschin's 65th birthday . Mattes, Heidelberg 2002.

Biography in the social sciences

  • BIOS - Journal for Biography Research
  • H. Bude: Reconstruction of life constructions - an answer to the question of what biographical research brings. In: M. Kohli, G. Robert (Ed.): Biography and social reality. New contributions and research perspectives. Stuttgart 1984.
  • AV Cicourel, Mark, In: M. Kohli: Sociology of the life course. Darmstadt 1978.
  • J. Fahrenberg: Psychological interpretation. Biography-Text-Tests. Bern 2002.
  • W. Fuchs: Biographical Research. An introduction to practice and methods. Opladen 1984.
  • M. Kohli: Sociology of the life course. Darmstadt 1978.
  • S. Lamnek: Qualitative Social Research. Volume 2: Methods and Techniques. Weinheim 1995.
  • Ursula Lehr: On the situation of aging women. Beck, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-406-32226-3 .
  • G. Rosenthal: Experienced and told life story. Shape and structure of biographical self-description. Frankfurt am Main 1995.
  • Hans Thomae: Aging styles and old age fates. A contribution to differential gerontology. Bem, Stuttgart, Vienna. 1983.

Biography in the historical sciences

Biography collections about the elderly

  • Eva Bliminger, Angelika Ertl, Ursula Koch-Straube, a. a .: life stories. Biography work with old people. 2nd Edition. Vincentz, Hanover 1996.
  • Margarete Dörr: Anyone who has not seen the time. Women's experiences in World War II and the years after. 3 volumes. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-593-36095-0 .
  • Helga Hirsch: Heavy luggage . Flight and displacement as a life theme. edition Körber Foundation, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-89684-042-8 .
  • Helga Hirsch: Uprooted: The loss of home between the Oder and the Bug. edition Körber Foundation, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89684-065-3 .
  • Michael Richter: Come and stay. German-Turkish life stories. 3. Edition. edition Körber Foundation, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-89684-048-7 .
  • Regine Schneider: 55plus - The art of getting older. ISBN 3-8218-5625-4 .
  • Dorothee Wierling (Ed.): Finding a home. Life paths of Germans who come from Russia. edition Körber Foundation, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-89684-043-6 .

Musician biographies

German composers from Bach to Wagner - musicians' biographies of the 19th century , digital library , volume 113, Directmedia Publishing , Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89853-513-4 .


  • Genealogy - Many people hope that genealogy / family research will keep their own family in the past. For this purpose a survey in . September 2004.
  • U. Gerhard: Type construction in patient careers. In: M. Kohli, G. Robert (Eds.): 1984
  • Andreas Maercker & Simon Forstmeier (eds.): The life review in therapy and counseling . Berlin, Springer, 2013.
  • Birgit Weingandt: Biographical methods in geragogy - qualitative and content-analytical approaches. KDA series “thema”, Volume 167. Ed. Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe. Self-published, Cologne 2001.

Web links

Commons : Biographies  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Biography  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Biographical Reference Works  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Winterhager : Latin lessons for nuns in the Ebstorf monastery around 1490 under the influence of the Bursfeld reform movement. In: Medical historical messages. Journal for the history of science and specialist prose research. Volume 34, 2015, pp. 79–85, here: pp. 82 f.
  2. Ernst Peter Fischer: Show us the pioneers! In: The time. February 18, 2016, accessed February 29, 2016 .