Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Though he published several plays and novels, Peter Hillsman Taylor is best known as one of America’s finest short-story writers. From the 1930’s to the 1990’s his prizewinning narratives have continued to be regarded as major achievements in a golden age of short fiction writing. During an era of great social change, Taylor’s publication record was amazingly steady.
The settings of his fiction and his focus on upper-middle-class Southern culture have roots in Taylor’s own Tennessee background. Born in the rural Tennessee, Taylor at the age of seven moved with his family to Nashville, two years later to St. Louis, and then in 1932 to Memphis. After graduation from high school and a brief trip abroad, he enrolled at Southwestern at Memphis and became acquainted with Allen Tate, who was his freshman English instructor. In the next few years, in the course of transferring to Vanderbilt University and then to Kenyon College, Taylor met the significant critic-teachers and nascent poets who would prove to be not only major literary influences but also lifelong friends—Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Lowell. The formalist strain in these associations, as well as Taylor’s southern consciousness, was enhanced by his brief encounters as a graduate student at Louisiana State University with Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks.
Taylor was one of the American writers of the post-World War II period who was nurtured by...
(The entire section is 1011 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Peter Hillsman Taylor grew up in middle-class circumstances in border states. His family moved to Nashville when he was seven, spent several years in St. Louis, and settled in Memphis when he was fifteen. Expected to follow his father and older brother into the practice of law, Taylor chose early to try to make his career as a writer. He studied with the poet Allen Tate. After a brief enrollment at Vanderbilt University, he preferred to follow the poet, editor, and teacher John Crowe Ransom to Kenyon College in Ohio. At Kenyon College, he was befriended by the poet and critic Randall Jarrell and shared a room with the poet Robert Lowell.
After service in the United States Army during World War II, Taylor took up teaching as a profession. Between 1945 and 1963, he held faculty appointments at Indiana State University and Ohio State University, and on three different occasions he was appointed to teaching positions at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 1967, he accepted a professorship at the University of Virginia, where he remained until his retirement in 1984.
Success as a short-story writer came fairly early in his career. Prestigious magazines such as The Southern Review and The New Republic published some of his stories written while he was still in college, and his first recognition in Best American Short Stories came in 1941, just after his graduation from Kenyon College. By 1948, his work was...
(The entire section is 317 words.)
In 1917 Peter Taylor was born in Trenton, Tennessee. His mother, Katherine, was a daughter of Tennessee Governor Robert Taylor; his father, Matthew, was descended from a prominent western Tennessee family. Not surprisingly, much of Taylor’s short fiction, including ‘‘A Spinster’s Tale,’’ depicts the lives of upper-middle-class residents of Tennessee.
Taylor’s fiction reflects the changing environment of the American South. Southern culture revered tradition, but it was nonetheless changing rapidly during Taylor’s youth: new, modern cities were replacing the largely rural landscape of the past, the established roles of men and women seemed to be destabilizing, and African Americans were challenging laws of racial separatism. Taylor’s fiction reflects all of these subjects, though sometimes in only the most indirect way.
Taylor spent a year in England after high school and then returned to America. He attended several colleges in the late 1930s. His story, ‘‘A Spinster’s Tale,’’ was his first story to appear in a major literary journal, the Southern Review, edited by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. By the late 1940s, Taylor was teaching and writing fiction. He published his first book of stories in 1948.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Taylor published regularly in the New Yorker. He was a visiting professor at Harvard and received an O. Henry prize for short story excellence. In 1969...
(The entire section is 285 words.)