Pictures of Lyly: digital corruptions and biographical truths

Johnson, Laurie (2017) Pictures of Lyly: digital corruptions and biographical truths. In: Recovering history through fact and fiction: forgotten lives. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, pp. 146-157. ISBN 978-1-5275-0325-0


In the digital age, biographers invariably seek to furnish their scholarship with images of their subjects. When dealing with subjects from eras preceding the photographic age, there is the blessing provided by portraiture, yet what is the fate of a biography where no portrait exists? In the case of early modern subjects, where the period was marked by portraiture being used as a marker of status and influence, could the absence of a portrait signify the unimportance of the subject? This essay will consider the case of John Lyly, playwright, poet, and rather less than successful courtier—his literary and dramatic influence on Shakespeare and others is without question, yet there has been no rush to produce Lyly biographies. I suggest this may be in part due to the fact that no portrait was ever painted of Lyly. This is an absence masked to some extent by Google Images, however, which produces numerous hits when searching for pictures of Lyly, all of which are incorrectly labelled. There are thus a number of pitfalls in using Google Images, or indeed any site of similar design and architecture, when seeking to compile visual support for a biography. With particular regard to Lyly, the desire to want to match an image to the life comes into conflict with his own explicit opposition to portraiture as a valid mode for the representation of living subjects.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version, in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2018 02:03
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2018 03:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: John Lyly; biography; portraiture
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200503 British and Irish Literature
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210304 Biography
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

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