A New Reality: Writing Across Gaps and Thresholds in Biography

Patrick Mullins

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contributionpeer-review


In 1999, American biographer Edmund Morris famously and controversially inserted a fictionalised version of himself into what was expected to be a thoroughly conventional biography of Ronald Reagan. Arguing that the true Reagan could not be depicted through the techniques of orthodox biography, Morris suggested that by virtue of his research he ‘had, in a sense, been there’ throughout Reagan’s life; that he had become in effect Reagan’s ‘döppelganger’. As such, Morris argued, he was well positioned to write a ‘memoir’ of Reagan that drew on this knowledge, fictionalised though the mode of narration was: hence the resultant text, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Morris’s work in Dutch is perhaps the most extreme and radical example of the many ways that biographers may approach the gaps and thresholds of writing another person’s life. This paper explores the techniques used by biographers to surmount these and consider how the failure of these techniques to illuminate his subject spurred Morris to the radical approach found in Dutch.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMinding the Gap: Writing Across Thresholds and Fault Lines: The Refereed Proceedings Of The 19th Conference Of The Australasian Association Of Writing Programs, 2014, Wellington NZ
EditorsGail Pittaway, Alex Lodge, Lisa Smithies
Place of PublicationOnline
PublisherThe Australiasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP)
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780980757385
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventMinding the Gap -Writing across thresholds and fault lines: 19th Australasian Association of Writing Programs Conference - Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Duration: 30 Nov 20142 Dec 2014


ConferenceMinding the Gap -Writing across thresholds and fault lines
Abbreviated titleAAWP2014
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address


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