Gail Godwin Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Gail Godwin has written ten novels, including The Odd Woman (1974), A Mother and Two Daughters (1982), The Good Husband (1994), and Evensong (1999). She edited, with Shannon Ravenel, The Best American Short Stories of 1985. She has also written several opera librettos, including Remembering Felix (pb. 1987), for composer Robert Starer.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Gail Godwin received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1974-1975, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1975-1976, and the award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1981. The Odd Woman received a National Book Award nomination; Violet Clay and A Mother and Two Daughters received American Book Award nominations; and A Southern Family received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Award. In 1988, Godwin received the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, presented by the University of Rochester.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to her novels, Gail Godwin has published two collections of short fiction: Dream Children (1976) and Mr. Bedford and the Muses (1983). Godwin is also a frequent reviewer of contemporary fiction for The New York Times Book Review and other publications. In 1985, she served as editor for The Best American Short Stories. Godwin has also achieved success as a librettist for composer Robert Starer’s musical works, including Remembering Felix, recorded in 1987. In 2006, she published the first installment of a planned two-volume memoir, The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961-1963.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Gail Godwin has done much to broaden the scope of the contemporary woman’s novel. While the struggles of women who seek both independent lives and productive connections to others are central to her work, she strives in her novels and short fiction to place those efforts within a larger context, especially within the framework of modern theories of art and psychology. In 1971-1972, Godwin was a fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her other awards include a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975, and an Award in Literature from the American Institute and Academy of Arts and Letters in 1981. Her story “Amanuensis” was included in the Prize Stories, 1980: O. Henry Awards collection.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cheney, Anne. “Gail Godwin and Her Novels.” In Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990. A comprehensive overview of Godwin’s career through A Southern Family. Emphasizes the autobiographical elements of the works, the contemporary love-hate relationship with the traditional South, and the evolving maturity of the author’s vision.

Crain, Jane Larkin. “Dream Children.” The New York Times Book Review (February 22, 1976). In this review, Crain argues that the atmosphere of the stories is largely dark and defines Godwin as a “chronicler of life on the edge,” depicting states of alienation, isolation, and madness. As in Godwin’s novels, the principal concern in the stories is the nature of womanhood.

Frye, Joanna S. “Narrating the Self: The Autonomous Heroine in Gail Godwin’s Violet Clay.” Contemporary Literature 24 (Spring, 1983): 66-85. A strong and important article dealing with narrative technique in Godwin’s fourth novel which has significant implications for her later works as well.

Gies, Judith. “Obligation, Fascination, and Intrigue.” The New York Times Book Review (September 8, 1983): 14, 37. A critical review of Mr. Bedford and the Muses, which faults the stories for being too neatly resolved at the end and regrets the “chatty and oddly schoolmarmish” tone of the book. Regards “A Cultural Exchange” as the most successful story.

Halisky, Linda H. “Redeeming the Irrational: The...

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