In the opening pages of Charles Molesworth’s 1990 biography of Marianne Moore, the reader encounters two exceedingly curious sentences. “I have chosen,” declares Molesworth in the first of these, “to limit my interpretations of [Moore’s] character by relying more on literary than on psychological questions.” Study that statement for a moment—savor it, if you will—and ponder its meaning. What is Molesworth saying here? Apparently, that he not only thinks a biographer can somehow “interpret” his subject’s “character” while skirting “psychological questions,” but also that for some reason he has found this course of action to be advisable. Which, of course, raises the questions: Exactly how does one go about interpreting a...

 

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