This book takes a fresh look at the relations between literature and biography by tracing the history of their connections through three hundred years of French literature. The starting point for this history is the eighteenth century when the term 'biography' first entered the French languageand when the word 'literature' began to acquire its modern sense of writing marked by an aesthetic character. Arguing that the idea of literature is inherently open to revision and contestation, Ann Jefferson examines the way in which biographically-orientated texts have been engaged in questioningand revising definitions of literature. At the same time, she tracks the evolving forms of biographical writing in French culture, and proposes a reappraisal of biography in terms not only of its forms, but also of its functions. Although Ann Jefferson's book has powerful theoretical implications for both biography and the literary, it is first and foremost a history, offering a comprehensive new account of the development of French literature through this dual focus on the question of literature and on the relationsbetween literature and biography. It offers original readings of major authors and texts in the light of these concerns, beginning with Rousseau and ending with 'life-writing' contemporary authors such as Pierre Michon and Jacques Roubaud. Other authors discussed include Mme de Stael, Victor Hugo,Sainte-Beuve, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Baudelaire, Nerval, Mallarme, Schwob, Proust, Gide, Leiris, Sartre, Genet, Barthes, and Roger Laporte.