Madison Jones Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Madison Jones is known primarily as a novelist, he has also published short stories and literary criticism. The stories have appeared in journals such as Perspective and, more important, the Sewanee Review, which figured prominently in his early career. His story “Dog Days” was included by Martha Foley in her collection The Best American Short Stories of 1953. Two years earlier, Foley listed Jones’s 1951 story “The Homecoming” on her Roll of Honor. A collection of his short fiction, Season of the Strangler, was published in 1982. His critical works and reviews have appeared in such periodicals as the Mississippi Quarterly, the South Atlantic Quarterly, The Washington Post, and The New York Times Book Review.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Despite some early success with the short story, Madison Jones’s major literary accomplishments are found in his novels, which range from the spare novella form of An Exile to the rich, nightmarish extravagance of Forest of the Night, from the contemporary social criticism of A Buried Land and A Cry of Absence to the timeless allegory of sin and redemption in Passage Through Gehenna. Whatever the form he employs, Jones is noted for the care with which he constructs his works; he is a stylist of precision and balance. Conservative in the sense that his values are rooted in the traditional, Jones has never become an apologist for the land and people of the American South, which he has chosen as his subject. He refuses to sentimentalize or romanticize. Instead, a sharp intelligence and undeviating morality motivate each work. Jones’s novels are often too emotionally demanding to be “entertaining” in the popular sense of the word, and he has never achieved wide commercial success, although a motion-picture adaptation of An Exile was released in 1970; the film, directed by John Frankenheimer and titled I Walk the Line, stars Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld.

Jones has long encouraged the development of southern writers, both through his own example and through his teaching as writer-in-residence at Auburn University. He believes in the need for cultural and intellectual independence for the South. In his concerns and goals, Jones remains a part of that middle generation of twentieth century southern writers who carry the rich and often troubling heritage of the traditional past into the changing and sometimes ambivalent society of today.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Binding, Paul. “Madison Jones.” In Separate Country: A Literary Journey Through the American South. Rev. ed. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998. A perceptive study, based not only on a close analysis of the novels but also on Jones’s conversations with Binding.

Bradford, M. E. “Madison Jones.” In The History of Southern Literature, edited by Louis D. Rubin, Jr., et al. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985. Jones is classified as a traditional southern writer and an uncompromising realist. A thoughtful essay.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby. “The Last Agrarian: Madison Jones’s Achievement.” The Southern Review 22, no. 3 (July, 1986): 478-488. Though Jones still holds many Agrarian views, Gretlund insists that his later works are less pessimistic than the earlier ones and that he is more a moralist, concerned with universal truths, than a regionalist.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby. “Madison Jones: A Bibliography.” In Bulletin of Bibliography 39, no. 3 (September, 1982): 117-120. Lists the author’s earlier works, including short fiction, critical essays, and reviews. A valuable reference.

Jeffrey, David K. “Madison Jones.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert...

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