Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Jean Wilson Stafford was born in Covina, California, on July 1, 1915, to Ethel McKillop Stafford and John Richard Stafford, a writer of Westerns who had three years before moved out from Missouri. In 1920, John sold his Covina ranch, moved to San Diego, and began to play the stock exchange. Within a year, he had lost his life savings as well as a substantial inheritance from his wealthy father. John next took his family to Colorado, first settling in Colorado Springs, then in Boulder, only to find that the frontier he had imagined, with its limitless opportunities, was gone forever. Although John did occasionally sell a story, he was never again able to support his family. As she saw her beloved father retreating further and further into bitterness and eccentricity, and her mother seemingly becoming indifferent to everything except her money-making ventures, Jean Stafford developed the sense of alienation that permeates her work.
Although the small university town of “Adams,” or Boulder, is shown in Stafford’s fiction as a dull, provincial, and intellectually stifling place, it did at least provide Ethel with the economic opportunity she had so desperately sought. She kept the family afloat by running a boardinghouse for students, and though the family was poor, the children could live at home, work, and get college educations.
After she entered the University of Colorado in 1932, the beautiful and brilliant Jean Stafford found friends...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In her fiction, Stafford shows how the world looks from the perspective of those who feel alienated from it. Although her works range in tone from rollicking comedy and social satire to profound tragedy, they all move toward a revelation, knowledge that may bring new hope to the protagonist, who is usually female, but that more often destroys her peace of mind or even her life.
The rediscovery of Stafford’s work is due in part to her insight into the inner lives of girls and young women. However, critics have also taken a new interest in her status as a woman writer from the American West, a section that has characteristically been thought of as a male domain, producing fiction in which women’s interpretations of life there were not especially important. The fact that Stafford’s fiction can sustain intense analysis from a number of different perspectives is an indication of her profound insight into the human condition.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Although born in California, where she spent part of her childhood, Jean Stafford grew up in Colorado, attended the University of Colorado (A.M., 1936), and did postgraduate work at the University of Heidelberg. Her father, at one time a reporter, had written a number of Western stories. After a year teaching at Stephens College in Missouri and then briefly at the Writer’s Workshop in Iowa, Stafford decided to focus on her own writing and moved to Boston. There she married poet Robert Lowell in 1940; they were divorced in 1948. After a short marriage to Oliver Jensen in 1950, Stafford married again in 1959—to A. J. Liebling, critic and columnist for The New Yorker. After Liebling’s death in 1963, Stafford withdrew from the New York literary world and made her home in Springs, Long Island. There she lived, becoming more and more reclusive, until her death in 1979.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Jean Stafford was a novelist and short-story writer of considerable distinction. Born to John and Mary McKillop Stafford on July 1, 1915, in Covina, California, Jean was the youngest of four children in a family beset by poverty. Her father, who held many jobs, also wrote stories and opinionated essays which he regularly read aloud to his children. The Stafford family moved from Covina to San Diego, then to a succession of small towns in Colorado, finally settling in Boulder in 1925. At age six, Jean began to write poems and stories, and she completed her first novel by age eleven. She also began to read the dictionary simply for pleasure and, even as a child, displayed an incredible command of language. From 1925 to 1932, Stafford attended University Hill School and State Preparatory School in Boulder. In 1932 she enrolled in the University of Colorado, Boulder, financing her education by scholarships and part-time work; she graduated with both B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1936. After graduation, she studied philology at the University of Heidelberg on a one-year fellowship.
Shy and intellectual, Stafford was a misfit in both high school and college. Returning from Germany, she attended a writing school in Boulder and was introduced to poet Robert Lowell (1917-1977), a man with a very different background from her own, whom she would later marry. She spent one unhappy year as an instructor at Stephens College and in 1938 taught briefly at the Writers’...
(The entire section is 1305 words.)
Biography (Short Stories for Students)
Born in the rural Californian town of Covina in 1915, Stafford was the youngest child of four. Her father was a fiction writer who lost his fortune in the stock market while living in San Diego in 1920, at which point the family moved to Colorado and struggled to live on the income from the children’s jobs, allowances from their family, and the income Stafford’s mother collected from taking sorority girls as boarders in their home. Stafford attended the University of Colorado on a scholarship, where her roommates introduced her to drinking and sexual experimentation until one of them committed suicide in her presence, an event which deeply affected Stafford and her writing. After graduating with a degree in English, Stafford traveled to Europe on a fellowship from the German government to study philology at the University of Heidelberg.
At the Boulder Writers’ Conference in the summer of 1937, Stafford met the poet Robert Lowell, with whom she was in a car accident that left her with serious and disfiguring injuries. They were married in 1940, but divorced six turbulent years later, after Stafford had begun a career as a novelist and had published the bestseller Boston Adventure (1944). In 1947, Stafford published The Mountain Lion, which did not sell as well as her previous novel. After her divorce from Lowell, Stafford began to publish short stories in the New Yorker magazine. In 1950 she married Oliver Jenson, a staff...
(The entire section is 405 words.)