Read together as autobiographies of a name, these two very different narratives provide unexpected points of connection to my silenced family story. The essay explores the extent to which my identity as a third-generation American has been entangled with a collective history shaped by the trauma of departure. I reimagine the documents of my personal archive within the grand immigration sagas of the twentieth century.
This essay examines a neglected biographical sub-genre—collective “eccentric biography”—in its Victorian form. It contextualizes the genre by outlining its early-modern origins in character books and collections of wonders, and by relating Victorian versions to a wider press and public interest in eccentrics. The essay addresses readership, critical reception, publishing history, and the relationship of eccentric biography to the poetry of William Wordsworth, and to the fiction of Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, as well as reasons for the absence of new collections after the 1860s.