Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
John Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland, in the second year of the Great Depression. After graduating from local public schools, Barth spent the summer of 1947 studying theory and orchestration at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. At the time, Barth’s aspiration was to become a big-band jazz arranger in the tradition of Billy Strayhorn, but he soon felt that in comparison with the sophistication of his influences his own talents were limited, so he abandoned music as a career.
Returning to Maryland’s Eastern Shore at the end of the summer of 1947, Barth found that he had been awarded a scholarship to The Johns Hopkins University, and he elected to attend Johns Hopkins in the fall of that year to pursue a major in journalism. Although Barth has suggested that his interest in working with past literature, particularly myth and historical narrative, is a by-product of his interest in musical arrangement, he first became seriously interested in writing fiction in the creative writing classes he took at Johns Hopkins. There he was also introduced to the world of literature and criticism, and by the time he had completed his A.B. degree, which was awarded to Barth in 1951, he had effectively decided to devote himself to writing fiction.
His first extended work of fiction, a novel titled “The Shirt of Nessus” (unpublished), was...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
As perhaps the most sophisticated practitioner of postmodern fiction in the United States, Barth is a central figure in the literary history of the contemporary period. Each of Barth’s books is consistent with the others in its pursuit of ideas and problems that Barth first considered, in their nascent form, very early in his career. Each Barth novel or short story is also distinctive in demonstrating a distinctive aspect of his technical prowess as a writer. While experimentation in and for itself has never been Barth’s aim, his success as a novelist, in large part, has depended upon his willingness to take risks and to experiment—and to do so with a keen sense of the literary tradition in which he writes.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
John Simmons Barth’s first artistic interest was in music, and he studied briefly at the Juilliard School of Music before entering The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in the fall of 1947. He married Harriette Anne Strickland in January, 1950. In 1951, he received his B.A. in creative writing, and his first child, Christine, was born. Barth completed his M.A. in 1952 and began work on his Ph.D. in the aesthetics of literature. His second child, John, was born in 1952, and with his wife expecting a third child (Daniel, born in 1954), Barth abandoned work on his Ph.D. and took a teaching job at Pennsylvania State University in 1953. In 1965, he left Pennsylvania State to teach at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Divorced from his first wife in 1969, Barth married Shelly Rosenberg on December 27, 1970. Barth was Alumni Centennial Professor of English and Creative Writing at The Johns Hopkins University from 1973 to 1990, when he became professor emeritus.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Simmons Barth was born on May 27, 1930, in Cambridge, Maryland, the contemporary and historical environs of which have provided the setting for much of his writing. He attended Cambridge High School, after which he accommodated his passion for jazz and the drums with a brief stay at the Juilliard School. His unspectacular showing there led him to enroll at Johns Hopkins University, a move made possible when he won a scholarship he had forgotten he had applied for. He achieved the highest grade point average in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences upon receiving the bachelor of arts degree in 1951.
To pay off tuition debts and support his wife (Harriet Anne Strickland, whom he had married in 1950), Barth took a job in the Classics Library, where he first became absorbed in the Asian tale cycles that would later inform the style and content of his own fiction. During this period came his first publications in student literary magazines, including one story, “Lilith and the Lion,” the appearance of which in The Hopkins Review when Barth was twenty may rightly be considered his first professional work. His master’s project was The Shirt of Nessus, a novel based on a love triangle including a father and son and populated by rapists, murderers, bootleggers, and lunatics; Barth confesses it a miscarriage, and he says it now rests in the Dorchester marshes on Chesapeake Bay.
Having received his master of arts...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Simmons Barth, one of the most influential American writers of the so-called postmodernist era, was born to John Jacob and Georgia Simmons Barth and grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a location that serves as the principal setting in most of his fiction. After finishing high school, he attended the Juilliard School of Music and then enrolled in The Johns Hopkins University in 1947, pursuing a degree in journalism. By the time of his junior year, however, because of the influence of one of his professors, he decided to become a teacher and a fiction writer instead. Barth was married to Harriette Anne Strickland in 1950 and received his bachelor’s degree in creative writing the following year. By 1952, he had completed his master’s degree at Johns Hopkins and begun his doctoral work there. In 1953, he left the university becuase of a lack of funds and took a teaching position in the English department at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
The years from 1955 to 1960 were perhaps the most important ones in John Barth’s career. During that time, he published The Floating Opera (which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1956), The End of the Road, and The Sot-Weed Factor, and he began work on Giles Goat-Boy. Although Barth’s first two novels are basically realistic works, they contain the...
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John Simmons Barth was born on May, 27, 1930, to John Jacob and Georgia Barth in Cambridge, Maryland. After graduating from public high school in 1947, he enrolled in the prestigious Julliard School of music with dreams of becoming an arranger, or orchestrator. He soon shifted his interest, however, and enrolled in Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and began his lifelong involvement with literature and writing. By the time he had received his B.A. from Johns Hopkins in 1951, he was married and the father of a daughter.
Barth continued at Johns Hopkins and received his M.A. in creative writing in 1952. After the birth of his second child, he was forced for financial reasons to discontinue his doctoral work and accept a teaching position at Pennsylvania State University. After his first novel, The Floating Opera, was nominated for the National Book Award, he was promoted to the rank of assistant professor. Three novels later, in 1960, he was promoted to associate professor. He moved to Buffalo to become professor of English at the State University of New York in 1965, was divorced in 1969, and remarried in 1970. Finally, in 1973, Barth returned to his Maryland roots and became a professor of English and creative writing at Johns Hopkins. In 1990 he retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus, but has remained an active and productive writer. His latest novel, The Tidewater Tales, was published in 1997.
Three aspects of...
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