Charles R(aymond) Larson Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Charles R(aymond) Larson 1938–

American critic, essayist, novelist, and editor.

Larson is a foremost scholar of Third World and minority literature. In his first critical work, The Emergence of African Fiction (1972), Larson examined what he considered representative examples of the best African writing. The works of Chinua Achebe, Camara Laye, Wole Soyinka, and others are discussed in terms of plot and characterization, and then related to African literature as a whole. Larson's next critical work, The Novel in the Third World (1976), is a comparative study of novels from various Third World countries. As he did in The Emergence of African Fiction, Larson analyzes individual works and then attempts to define them in a larger context. He notes, in particular, the way in which African writers reflect their country's attempt to assert a national character in the face of Western cultural domination. American Indian Fiction (1978) has been called "the first critical and historical account of novels by American Indians." Much of this work focuses on the difficulty of determining authentic "Indianness." Despite objections concerning Larson's premises and conclusions in this work and in his commentaries on African literature, his scholarly efforts are important contributions to studies of world literature.

In addition to his critical studies, Larson has also written three novels: Academia Nuts (1977), a satire on university life; The Insect Colony (1978), which explores the confrontation between African and European cultures; and Arthur Dimmesdale (1982), a retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter from the perspective of Arthur Dimmesdale.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56 and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 4.)