Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.




During the early twelfth-century, the nature of biographical writings was undergoing major change as part of the so-called "Twelfth-Century Renaissance." During this period, the intellectual climate in Europe was undergoing a major transformation, due in part to the revival of urban life in the West. Classical authors were being rediscovered as texts lost since antiquity filtered their way back into Europe through Spain, and new translations were made from the ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew texts, supplemented by newer Arabic writings. Older traditions of hagiography were being adapted to fit the needs of a new generation of authors. Elements were taken from older authors, most notably classical biographers such as Suetonius and Christian writers such as St. Augustine, and recombined to produce something new. Biographies became more than a work to glorify a saint or a king or to provide moral instruction, although biographies that did so were still being written. Biographical and autobiographical writings became means of self-expression. Indeed, a growing sense of self-awareness was prevalent in the twelfth-century and it precipitated a shift towards ever more personal autobiographical writings.


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biography, autobiography, memoirs, twelfth century