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Lecture

John Updike.doc


Department
English
Course Code
ENG 1120
Professor
Breid Mc Ilkenny

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John Updike 1932 - 2009
American novelist, short-story writer, poet and literary and art critic.
Updike was a prolific writer. The following entries represent a number of his better known
works:
The Rabbit novels 1960 – 2001
The Beck Books 1970 - 2001
The Witches of Eastwick 1984
He has published 15 short story collections and 10 poetry collections
His first volume of poetry, Hoping for a Hoopie, was published in 1958, and his first novel
Poorhouse Fair in 1959. He has also written for children and is a noted essayist.
Updike established a reputation as a keen observer of contemporary American life. His
classic preoccupations are with the erotic, with the pain and striving implicit in human
relationships, and with the sacred in human life.
He is known for his writings that consist of suburban scenes. Updike takes experiences and
places from his childhood and uses them in his works. He also observes ordinary life he
sees around him and frequently asks the reader to recognize and reconsider one’s own
preoccupations. He explores the hidden tensions of middle-class American life. Many of
his characters are put in a situation of turmoil and they must respond to situations that
relate to religion, family obligations, and marital fidelity.
Updike’s prose style is well crafted, ornate, and highly-charged. He is a gentle satirist who
pokes fun at American life and customs, without engaging in mean-spirited nihilism.
The Oxford Companion to English Literature
Updike on Writing
there seemed a strange ability to harken both America the Beautiful as well as America the
Plain Jane, and the lovely Protestant backbone in his fiction and essays, when he decided
to show it off, was as progressive and enlightened as it was unapologetic.
ZZ Packer, ‘Remembering Updike", New Yorker online
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