Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, a small city on the Erie Barge Canal near Buffalo, to Fredric James and Caroline (Bush) Oates. Her father was a tool and die designer, and Oates’s childhood was spent in a rural town, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. From earliest memory she wanted to be an author. As a small child she drew pictures to tell stories; later she wrote them out, sometimes producing handwritten books of up to two hundred pages with carefully designed covers.
Oates’s childhood was simple and happy, and she developed a closeness to her parents that flourished in her adult years. Her brother, Fredric, Jr., was born in 1943, and her sister, Lynn Ann, in 1956; in that year Oates graduated from Williamsville Central High School, where she had written for the school newspaper, and was entering Syracuse University under a New York State Regents Scholarship, the first in her family to attend college. During her freshman year, a tachycardiac seizure during a basketball game profoundly affected her view of life by bringing her face-to-face with her mortality. She continued writing stories, and in 1959 she was selected cowinner of the Mademoiselle college fiction award for “In the Old World.” An excellent student, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 1960 at the top of her class.
She received a Knapp Fellowship to pursue graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, where she met a Ph.D. candidate named Raymond Joseph Smith. She and Smith were married on January 23, 1961, and later that year she received her M.A. in English. Smith and Oates moved to Texas, where he taught in Beaumont and she began doctoral work at Rice University in Houston; however, with one of her stories appearing on the honor roll of Martha Foley’s Best American Short Stories, Oates soon decided to devote herself to her writing.
Her first collection of stories, By the North Gate, appeared in 1963, followed a year later by her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, which, like many of her stories, depicted passionate individuals and violent situations. In 1967, A Garden of Earthly Delights appeared as the first novel...
(The entire section is 954 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The novels and stories of Oates offer a plethora of subjects, styles, themes, and philosophical concerns; given their wide publication and anthologizing, they have reached an unusually large audience. Throughout Oates’s work is a concern not only to articulate her perception of personal and social conditions but also to delve imaginatively into the depths of meaning she finds there. By dreaming and re-imagining America, she invites her readers to explore the true nature of the world around them.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, a small city outside Buffalo. Her father was a tool and die designer, and her childhood was spent in a rural town where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. From earliest memory, she wanted to be an author. As a small child, she drew pictures to tell stories; later, she wrote them, sometimes producing handwritten books of up to two hundred pages, with carefully designed covers. Her youth was simple and happy, and she developed a closeness to her parents that flourished in her adult years.
In 1956, Oates graduated from Williamsville Central High School, where she had written for the school newspaper, and she entered Syracuse University under a New York State Regents Scholarship. During her freshman year, a tachycardiac seizure during a basketball game profoundly affected her view of life by bringing her face to face with her mortality. She continued writing, and in 1959 was selected cowinner of the Mademoiselle college fiction award for “In the Old World.” An excellent student, she was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 1960 at the top of her class.
She received a Knapp Fellowship to pursue graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, where she met Ph.D. candidate Raymond Joseph Smith. She and Smith were married on January 23, 1961. After receiving her M.A., Oates and Smith moved to Texas, where he taught in Beaumont and she began doctoral work at William Marsh Rice University in Houston. With one of her stories appearing...
(The entire section is 625 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York. She received a modest education in a one-room schoolhouse and, as a child, had very little exposure to literature. This, however, did not quell her desire to write, and she spent much of her time as a child writing stories and short books. Even with all the writing and composing experience she had in her childhood, however, she did not publish her first story until 1959. While studying at Syracuse University, she won Mademoiselle magazine’s college fiction competition with her short story “In the Old World.” This would be the first of many public acknowledgments of the quality of her writing.
After receiving her B.A. from Syracuse in 1960, where she was valedictorian, Oates went on to receive her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin. During her term at Syracuse, she met her future husband, Raymond J. Smith. They married in 1961 and then moved to Beaumont, Texas, and Oates began to work on her Ph.D. at Rice University. She would never complete the degree; she and her husband moved to Michigan in 1962. While in Michigan, she taught English at the University of Detroit until 1967, when she and her husband began teaching at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. During their tenure at the university, Smith and Oates cofounded the Windsor Review. After leaving the university in 1978, Oates went on to join the Princeton University Creative Writing Program. While a member of the program, she wrote not only fiction but also some brilliant essays on writers ranging from William Shakespeare to Norman Mailer.
Oates’s teaching career has proved rich and rewarding. In 1987 she was appointed Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Princeton and published a monograph titled On Boxing, after which she became internationally known as an expert on the sport. In addition to serving on the faculty at Princeton, Oates has traveled extensively, often undertaking her journeys to bring attention to her most recently published novel or short-story collection. Throughout the years she has given many public readings of her works and has appeared as the keynote speaker at various national and international conferences. After joining the Princeton faculty she also toured Eastern Europe under the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency.
Joyce Carol Oates was reared in New York. She was graduated from Syracuse University and earned a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. In l962, Oates and her husband Raymond J. Smith settled in Detroit. The poverty, industry, social turmoil, and riots of the inner city provided fodder for Oates’s creative imagination. Consequently she utilized the setting in several works, including the novel them and the story “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again.”
During the l970’s, Oates and her husband lived in Canada, teaching English at the University of Windsor in Ontario. While in Canada, the couple also began publication of a literary magazine, The Ontario Review. Since l978, Oates has taught writing at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. To describe Oates’ writing career as prolific seems an understatement. She admits to writing more than four hundred stories. She has published more than eighteen short-story collections, several volumes of poetry, and more than nineteen novels. In addition, she writes book reviews, plays, and literary essays. Several of her works, including “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” have been adapted to film. Oates describes her writing as “realistic allegory.” Her fiction explores the conflict inherent in the attempt to define oneself in a turbulent society.
Oates’s skills as an artist excel in form as well as theme. For example, her series of novels Bellefleur, A Bloodsmoor Romance (l982), and Mysteries of Winterthurn (1984) combine American history with elements of gothic romance, horror, and detective fiction. In addition, she has written several suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. Thus, Oates uses a variety of styles to portray social dilemmas.
Oates, as have other twentieth century writers, uses violence in her fiction to depict the chaotic, unsettled aspects of twentieth century American life. The violent situations in Oates’s fiction often include incidents of rape, incest, murder, or suicide. These violent conflicts drive many of her characters to the edge of madness. Hence, Oates portrays the reality of the American experience and its complexities.
Biography (The Sixties in America)
Joyce Carol Oates’s childhood poverty and family violence influenced the themes she explores in her fiction; Erie County, New York, where she grew up, is the Eden County of her early fiction. Her father, Frederic Oates, quit school during the Depression after his father deserted the family. Oates’s mother, Carolyn Bush, was adopted as an infant when her father was murdered in a bar brawl. Oates, the first in her family to finish college, earned a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1961. One of the United States’ most honored writers, Oates began publishing in the 1960’s.
(The entire section is 1278 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Joyce Carol Oates was born into a rural working-class family in Lockport, a town in upper New York State along the Erie Canal. She is the oldest of three children, with a brother five years younger and a sister, thirteen years younger, who has been institutionalized with autism since early adolescence. Oates’s early memories are of the maternal family farm, with chickens, pigs, and fruit trees. The economic depression of the 1930’s kept her father, Frederic Oates, from schooling, but his talents in art and music and his capacity for joy and hard work had a profound influence on his daughter. He introduced her to the sport of boxing and the thrills of flying; as a child she saw the world of male violence from the ringside and...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
While still in her twenties, Joyce Carol Oates was recognized as an important writer. After decades of consistent publication, her place in the first rank of contemporary American authors is assured. Born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, Oates was reared in a rural, Catholic, working-class family. Her father, Frederick, was a tool-and-die designer who quit school in the seventh grade to go to work. Her mother, the former Caroline Bush, was a housewife. Oates attended a one-room elementary school, the junior high in Lockport, and a high school outside Buffalo. She has used few of her childhood experiences, but she has frequently used the locale of Erie County, New York, which she ironically fictionalizes as “Eden...
(The entire section is 738 words.)
A celebrated professor at Princeton University and one of contemporary literature’s most prolific authors Joyce Carol Oates comes from humble beginnings. Born in Lockport, New York, on June 16, 1938, to Frederic James Oates, a tool and die designer, and Caroline Bush Oates, a homemaker, Oates began her education in a one-room country schoolhouse, the same one her mother attended decades before her. She developed her interest in storytelling as a child, constructing elaborate illustrated books while still in elementary school. At Syracuse University, where she studied philosophy and literature, she churned out a novel a term, flabbergasting her professors. Her favorite authors during this time included Franz Kafka and William Faulkner. Oates broke into the publishing world in 1959, when she was named co-winner of the Mademoiselle College Fiction Award for her short story ‘‘In the Old World,’’ which subsequently appeared in that magazine. In 1960, she received her bachelor’s degree, serving as class valedictorian.
The turning point in Oates’s career came in 1961 while she was studying for her Ph.D. in English at Rice University in Houston, where she had moved to be with her husband, Raymond Smith. After discovering that one of her stories had been cited in the honor roll in the latest volume of Martha Foley’s Best American Short Stories, Oates decided to quit graduate school and become a full-time writer. She published her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, in 1964 and since then has published plays, novels, short story and poetry collections, and critical studies. Though she draws on her childhood experience for much of her early fiction, as evidenced in pieces such as ‘‘Four Summers,’’ Oates’s subjects in her later work are varied, ranging from boxing to Shakespeare. In interviews, she sometimes describes her writing as a form of daydreaming that she revises minimally. However, critics have praised her technical skills and willingness to experiment with narrative structure as much as they have her intellect and energy.
Since winning the Mademoiselle award, Oates has accumulated a mind-boggling number of prizes for her writing, including five National Book Award nominations. In 1970, she won the award for her novel them. Other awards include more than twenty O. Henry Awards for individual stories; National Endowment for the Arts grants; a Guggenheim Fellowship; a National Institute of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Foundation Award; the Lotos Club Award of Merit; the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature; the PEN/ Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story; the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement; the Bobst Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction; and the Rhea Award for the short story. Her books of stories, poems, plays, and criticism have been nominated for scores of other awards as well. Oates’s most recent work includes her novel Beasts (2002), her story collection Faithless: Tales of Transgression (2001), and a collection of poems, Tenderness (1996).
Biography (Novels for Students)
IntroductionBorn in 1938, author Joyce Carol Oates spent her formative years growing up on a farm in Lockport, New York. Although the Great Depression hit her family hard, she was always encouraged to write. When she was fourteen, Oates was given a typewriter by her grandmother; from that day on, Oates has been writing novels. Her themes generally revolve around the nature and effects of violence and the simultaneously strong but fragile human psyche, particularly as it pertains to women’s lives. Her novels Black Water (1992) and What I Lived For (1994) were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Her short stories have appeared in almost every issue of Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards for the last forty years.
- Oates’ won Mademoiselle’s short story contest when she was just 19.
- Joyce Carol Oates is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton. In 1996, she received the PEN/Malmud Award for a “lifetime of literary achievement.”
- Of the literary life, Oates has said: “The field of writing is filled with tension. Any kind of artistic activity is. It’s not, I think, psychologically healthy in some ways. It’s very agitating and turbulent...And I find that it’s fraught with anxiety much of the time.”
- Not all critics are fans of the author’s work. One frequent criticism is that she writes far too much to be serious enough about what she produces. To date, Oates has published 37 novels, 23 volumes of short stories, and 4 volumes of plays.
- We Were the Mulvaneys (1996) was an Oprah Book Club selection in 2001, bringing the critically acclaimed and already popular author to an even wider audience.