Joseph Heco, a Japanese castaway who spent the 1850s working and studying
in the US, played a significant role as translator, entrepreneur, and advisor
after returning to Japan. This article examines the circum-Pacific contexts
and stylistic idiosyncrasies of Heco's autobiographical Narrative of a Japanese, arguing that its formal flaws reflect disjunctions between the conventions of equality that underwrite Western autobiography and the uneven conditions governing Japan's forced modernization.
In this article I examine Christopher Reeve's memoir Still Me, in which
Reeve explores the painful and traumatic shift from his previous able-body to
his present disabled body. I explore not only the way in which Reeve struggles
with his public image as Superman, but also the way in which Reeve's
narrative continually fast forwards through episodes of pain and suffering, in
order to keep the strong and powerful image of the Super-Crip intact.
"Short lives" were the earliest manifestations of biography. Their memorializing
intent remains alive (in obituaries and biographical dictionaries). That
said, these essays were tendentious—making arguments, or exemplifying
moral conduct—rather than simply celebrating individuals. Given that biography,
since the romantic age, has tended to celebrate individuals, what can
we learn by revisiting more tendentious "brief lives"? This article suggests that some research agendas and some disciplinary imperatives are conducive to
short lives. Noting the ways in which tendentious essays are deployed in current
life writing, this article identifies generic differences between full-scale
biography and (contemporary) short lives to argue that the potential of the
latter should be more fully appreciated.