Elizabeth Spencer Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

In addition to numerous short stories published in periodicals as well as in book-length collections, Elizabeth Spencer has produced several novels and novellas, including her best-known work, The Light in the Piazza (1960), which was made into a film. She has also written the novels The Salt Line (1984) and The Night Travellers (1991) and a memoir, Landscapes of the Heart: A Memoir (1998).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Elizabeth Spencer’s artistic achievement has garnered her many awards during her lifetime, including a Women’s Democratic Committee Award in 1949, a recognition award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1952, the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1957, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1953, a McGraw-Hill fiction award in 1960, the Henry H. Bellamann Foundation Award for creative writing in 1968; an Award of Merit Medal for the short story from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983, the Salem Award for Literature in 1992, the John Dos Passos Award for fiction in 1992, the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Literature in 1994, the Corrington Award for Literature in 1997, and the Richard Wright Award for Literature in 1997. She was also a Kenyon College Fellow in Fiction in 1957, a Bryn Mawr College Donnelly Fellow in 1962, and a National Endowment for Arts grantee in literature in 1983 as well as a Senior Arts Award grantee by the National Endowment for Arts in 1988.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Entzminger, Betina. “Emotional Distance as Narrative Strategy in Elizabeth Spencer’s Fiction.” The Mississippi Quarterly 49 (Winter, 1995/1996): 73-87. Discusses emotional detachment in Spencer’s fiction; argues that Spencer’s female characters become separate and autonomous by repressing the emotion that traditionally binds them to their confining domestic roles; claims that Spencer involves the reader with the emotions that her characters hide from themselves.

Greene, Sally. “Mending Webs: The Challenge of Childhood in Elizabeth Spencer’s Short Fiction.” Mississippi Quarterly 49 (Winter, 1995/1996): 89-98. Argues that, as human relationships become more fragile in her fiction, Spencer repeatedly turns to the imaginative perspective of a child to mend and protect these relationships. However, because of social fragmentation, Spencer’s children face increasingly difficult challenges in holding their world together.

Nettels, Elsa. “Elizabeth Spencer.” In Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990. This insightful essay draws on biographical details, as well as on comments in a number of published interviews with Spencer, in order to trace the development of her art and thought. The extensive annotations and the list of interviews in the bibliography are particularly helpful.

Phillips, Robert. “The Art of Fiction CX: Elizabeth Spencer.” The Paris Review 31 (Summer, 1989): 184-213. A lengthy series of questions and answers assembled from Phillips’s three interviews with Spencer, as well as from...

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