George P. Elliott Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Paul Elliott, the son of Paul R. Elliott and Nita Gregory, was born in a small town in Indiana and raised on a Southern California farm. Elliott was educated at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his B.A. in 1939 and his M.A. in 1941. That same year, he married Mary Emma Jeffries; they had one daughter, Nora Catherine. In 1947, he began his academic career with a teaching position at St. Mary’s University in California. In 1955, he joined the faculty of Cornell University, at which time he began work on the anthology Fifteen Modern American Poets. In 1957, he moved to Barnard College, where he received a Hudson Review Fellowship that allowed him to concentrate more fully on his creative interests. One year later he published his first novel, Parktilden Village.

In 1960, he was offered a position with the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. While there, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1962, he moved to the University of California at Berkeley. That same year he received a D. H. Lawrence Fellowship to the University of New Mexico. In 1963, Elliott accepted a position at Syracuse University, where he remained until his death in 1980. While at Syracuse he served as director of the graduate writing program.

Elliott is one of the most diverse American writers, known for working in almost every imaginable genre, including science fiction, fantasy, psychological realism, satire, and romance. Much of his work first appeared in such periodicals as The American Scholar, The Nation, Atlantic Monthly, and the Times Literary Supplement. Many of his lectures were collected in A Piece of Lettuce and Conversions. These essays, which range in subject from religion to politics, usually have their foundation in...

(The entire section is 754 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

George Paul Elliott was the eldest of four children (he had two younger brothers and a sister), and he was born on a farm near Knightstown, Indiana, a small country town. His father, Paul Revere Elliott, descended from several generations of Quaker farmers. His mother, Nita Gregory, came from a Methodist family. Since his father did not succeed in making a living from farming in Indiana, the family moved to Southern California, near Riverside, in 1928. There, his father worked on a carob plantation. When the plantation failed in the 1930’s, Elliott’s father worked as an irrigator until he retired.

After reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) when he was a child, Elliott decided that he would spend his life writing stories and poems. From the time he graduated high school in 1934 until after the war, he held a variety of jobs. Working his way through college, he first attended Riverside Junior College, then the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his M.A. in English in 1941, the year he married Mary Emma Jeffress; the couple’s only child was born in 1943. Elliott was exempted from military service during the World War II for medical reasons.

In 1947, Elliott assumed his first teaching post at St. Mary’s College, near Oakland, and he taught English there for eight years. He then taught for a year at Cornell University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, spent one semester at Berkeley, three years at Barnard College, and finally remained at his post at Syracuse University for the remainder of his life.

Elliott, more concerned with content than form, explored his fundamentally Christian convictions in a number of novels and short stories. At the beginning of his career, his writing, according to him, consisted of “deadly naturalism, conventional versification, and bloodless fantasy.” His dominant literary aim, however, later turned to the idea of infusing “poetic fantasy with the blood of life.” Elliott died on May 3, 1980, in New York.