Representative Authors

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1678

Donald Barthelme (1931–1989)
Donald Barthelme, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 1931. In 1949 he enrolled at the University of Houston as a journalism major and worked on the staff of the Daily Cougar as an editor. After spending time in the U.S. Army he returned to Houston where he worked for several newspapers. In 1962 he went to New York where he had articles and stories published in New Yorker magazine. He won many honors and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Book Award, National Institute of Arts and Letters Zabel Award, Rea Short Story Award, and the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Barthelme died of throat cancer July 23, 1989, at the age of fifty-eight.

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He has been characterized as an avant-garde or postmodernist who relies more on language than plot or character. He is well known as a short story writer, novelist, editor, journalist, and teacher. Some of his publications include: Come Back, Dr. Caligari, 1964, City Life, 1970; Sixty Stories, 1981; and The King, 1990.

Jacques Derrida (1930–)
Jacques Derrida was born in El Biar, Algeria, on July 15, 1930. He earned several undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. He also did graduate study at Harvard University, from 1956 to 1957. He has taught at many of the world’s finest colleges and universities: University of Paris, Sorbonne, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, University of California at Irvine, Cornell University, and City University of New York.

His work beginning in the 1960s effected a profound change in literary criticism. In 1962 he first outlined the basic ideas that became known as deconstruction in a lengthy introduction to his 1962 French translation of German philosopher Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry. The full strategy of deconstruction is outlined and explained in his difficult masterwork, Of Grammatology, published in English in 1967. It revealed the interplay of multiple meanings in the texts of present day culture and exposed the unspoken assumptions that underlie much of contemporary social thought.

Terry Eagleton (1943–)
Terence Eagleton was born on February 22, 1943, in Salford, England. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he received a bachelor of arts in 1964. He earned his Ph.D. from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1968. He has taught at Cambridge and at Oxford. He has been a judge for poetry and literature competitions.

As one of the foremost exponents of Marxist criticism, he is concerned with the ideologies found in literature, examining the role of Marxism in discerning these ideologies. His early publications include: Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Bröntes, 1975; Marxism and Literary Criticism, 1976; Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory, 1976, among others. His later publications include: Literary Theory: An Introduction, 1983; The Function of Criticism: From the Spectator to Poststructuralism, 1984; and The Ideology of the Aesthetics, 1990. His concise Marxism and Literary Criticism, 1976, discusses the author as producer, and the relationships between literature and history, form and content, and the writer and commitment. He is the foremost advocate of the inclusion of social and historical issues in literary criticism.

Michel Foucault (1926–1984)
Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, on October 15, 1926, and received a diploma in 1952 from Ecole Normale Superieure and the Sorbonne, University of Paris. He taught philosophy and French literature at the Universities of Lille, Uppsala, Warsaw, Hamburg, Clermont-Ferrand, Sao Paulo, and the University of Tunis between the years 1960 and 1968. Foucault taught at the University of Paris, Vincennes, France, from 1968 to 1970. From 1970 until his death in 1984, he was chairman of History of Systems of Thought at College de France. The best known of his publications are The History of Sexuality, 1976; The Use of Pleasure, 1985; and The Care of the Self, 1987.

He used what he called the archaeological approach in his work to dig up scholarly minutia from the past and display the “archaeological” form or forms in them, which would be common to all mental activity. Later he shifted this emphasis from the archaeological to a genealogical method that sought to understand how power structures shaped and changed the boundaries of “truth.” It is this understanding of the combination of power and knowledge that is his most noteworthy accomplishment.

Foucault died of a neurological disorder on June 25, 1984, in Paris, France.

Fredric Jameson (1934–)
Fredric Jameson was born on April 14, 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Haverford College and Yale University and received a master of fine arts degree in 1956 and his Ph.D. in 1959. He taught at Harvard University, the University of California, San Diego, at Yale University, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and at Duke University. He received many awards and fellowships including: Rotary Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, Humanities Institute Grant, and the William Riley Parker Prize.

Jameson is the leading exponent of Marxism in the United States. In Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism he raises concerns about the way present-day culture is constructed. His 1983 article, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” provides basic groundwork for much of his version of Marxist criticism.

Julia Kristeva (1941–)
Julia Kristeva was born in Silven, Bulgaria, on June 24, 1941. Her formal education began in French schools in Bulgaria, where she earned her diploma at the Universite de Sofia, and ended in 1973 at the University of Paris VII, where she received her Ph.D. She has since taught at several universities and has established a private psychoanalytic practice in Paris. She has received both the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite.

She is renowned as a writer, educator, linguist, psychoanalyst, and literary theorist and is also considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern France. Kristeva bases her work on two components of the linguistic operation: the semiotic, which expresses objective meaning; and the symbolic, the rhythmic and illogical aspects of meaning. What she calls “poetic language” is the intertwining of these elements. It is these same tenets that form the basis for postmodern criticism. She has been embraced by many as a feminist writer because of her writings on social issues, but Kristeva’s relationship to feminism has been one of ambivalence. Two of her most important publications are Desire in Language, A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (published in 1969, translated in 1980) and New Maladies of the Soul (published in 1993, translated in 1995), a collection of essays. She has also written several novels.

Toni Morrison (1931–)
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, to a black working class family. She studied humanities in college, obtaining her bachelor of arts in 1953 from Howard University (a distinguished black college) and her masters degree from Cornell University in 1955. Morrison married Harold Morrison in 1958 and the couple had two sons before divorcing in 1964. Morrison has worked as an academic, an editor, a critic, and continues to give lectures.

After the publication of her first novel in 1970, Morrison’s writing quickly came to the attention of critics and readers who praised her richly expressive style and ear for dialogue. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her novel Beloved (1987) and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Morrison has written novels, plays, and nonfiction essays, including: The Bluest Eye (1969); Sula (1973); Song of Solomon (1977); Tar Baby (1981); Dreaming Emmett (1986, play); Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, (1992); and Book of Mean People (2002). Morrison has also edited and/or collaborated on several volumes with other authors.

Ishmael Reed (1938–)
Ishmael Reed was born on February 22, 1938, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended State University of New York at Buffalo from 1956 to 1960. Reed has written numerous novels, short stories, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, literary criticism, and history, and has been accorded many honors and awards including the nomination for Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1973 for Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970. He has taught at many colleges and universities and at prose and poetry workshops across the United States.

His novels include: The Free-Lance Pallbearers, 1967; Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, 1969; Mumbo Jumbo, 1972; The Last Days of Louisiana Red, 1974; Flight to Canada, 1976; The Terrible Twos, 1982; Reckless Eyeballing, 1986; The Terrible Threes, 1989; and Japanese by Spring, 1993.

He has written much poetry including: catechism of neoamerican hoodoo church, 1970; Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970, 1972; Chattanooga: Poems, 1973; A Secretary to the Spirits, 1977; and New and Collected Poems, 1988.

His poetry captures the rich texture of the novels in the combinations of language from street language to academic language, from dialects and slang to the clever use of neologisms. He includes many references to mythologies and cultures apart from his own experiences.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922–)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 11, 1922. He attended Cornell University, Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), and the University of Chicago where he earned his master of fine arts degree in 1971. From 1942 to 1945 he was in the U.S. Army, Infantry, including some time as a POW (he received the Purple Heart).

He worked as editor for the Cornell Daily Sun, 1941 to 1942, as police reporter in 1947 for the Chicago City News Bureau; in the public relations department of the General Electric Co., Schenectady, NY, 1947 to 1950; and as a freelance writer beginning in 1950 to the present.

He taught at Hopefield School in Sandwich, MA, the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Harvard University, and at the City College of the City University of New York, 1965. In 1986 he was a speaker at the hearing of the National Coalition against Censorship briefing for the attorney general’s Commission on Pornography.

He has been the recipient of many honors and awards. He is the author of many novels, essays, and other writings, including plays and articles for magazines and journals. His novels include: The Sirens of Titan, 1959; Mother Night, 1961; Cat’s Cradle, 1963; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; or, Pearls before Swine, 1965; Slaughterhouse Five; or, The Children’s Crusade, 1969; and a collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House, 1968. More recent novels include Jailbird, 1979 and Timequake, 1997.

His writing is filled with biting satire and irony. Many of his characters find their way into several of the novels. Kilgore Trout appears in Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five, as well as others; the Tralfamadorians show up in Sirens of Titan and in Slaughterhouse Five. He freely peppers his texts with quotes from Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

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