Julia W(oolfolk) Cunningham Critical Essays

Introduction

Julia W(oolfolk) Cunningham 1916–

American young adult and children's novelist and editor. Cunningham, whose controversial Dorp Dead! is considered the first existential novel aimed specifically at a young adult audience, writes fiction that is complex, sophisticated, and rich in symbolism and psychological meaning. While Dorp Dead!, which deals uncompromisingly with evil, is generally conceded to be a beautifully written novel, it is considered by many critics too grim to be suitable for the age group for which it was written. Strong elements of fantasy, allegory, and gothic romanticism flavor Cunningham's fiction, with the medieval French background of some of her stories attributable to her stay in France in the 1950s. Cunningham is a unique figure in young adult literature, writing both realistic and symbolic stories that emphasize the absolute importance of individualism and self-realization. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 1.)