John Gardner Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

John Gardner believed in the importance of striving to understand others’ points of view. What are the effects of his very unusual assumption of a monster’s point of view in Grendel?

Christian imagery in Grendel is said to give it “power and resonance.” Locate instances of this imagery. How would you justify this claim?

What, according to Gardner, are the responsibilities of a novelist?

For Gardner, authentic art is moral art. Is there such a thing as immoral art?

Gardner makes severe criticisms of a number of novelists of his time. What is the essence of his charges against them? Could the same criticisms be justly leveled against his own work?

What is an antinovel? How does the one said to be imbedded in October Light function?


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chavkin, Allan, ed. Conversations with John Gardner. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990. Although the nineteen interviews collected here represent only a fraction of the number that the loquacious Gardner gave, they are among the most important and are nicely complemented by Chavkin’s analysis of the larger Gardner in his introduction.

Cowart, David. Arches and Light: The Fiction of John Gardner. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. Like so many Gardner critics, Cowart is too willing to take Gardner at his (moral fiction) word. Cowart is, however, an intelligent and astute reader. He devotes separate chapters to The King’s Indian, the children’s stories, and The Art of Living and Other Stories.

Fenlon, Katherine Feeney. “John Gardner’s ‘The Ravages of Spring’ as Re-creation of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’” Studies in Short Fiction 31 (Summer, 1994): 481-487. Shows how Gardner re-creates Poe’s story and Americanizes its details, providing a comprehensive interpretation of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Argues that Gardner’s story, which compares dreaming to artistic creation, interprets what happens in Poe’s story as the construction of the art work.

Henderson, Jeff. John Gardner: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Henderson provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of The King’s...

(The entire section is 637 words.)