Reynolds Price Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born on February 1, 1933, in the rural North Carolina town of Macon, the son of William Solomon Price and Elizabeth Rodwell Price, Edward Reynolds Price was a child of the Great Depression. Although, because of the closeness of his family structure, his welfare was not seriously threatened by the social dislocations around him, the boy was aware of them and developed what his biographer Constance Rooke calls Dickensian terrors of abandonment and destitution. His parents, hard-pressed economically, lost their house when they could not raise a fifty-dollar mortgage payment.

Upon graduation from Needham-Broughten High School in Raleigh, where his English teacher, Phyllis Peacock, appreciated his ability and took a particular interest in him, Price became an English major at Duke University in 1951. There he came under the influence of William Blackburn, a legendary teacher of creative writing who numbered among his former students such luminaries as William Styron, Anne Tyler, Max Hyman, and Fred Chappell. Through Blackburn, Price metEudora Welty, who respected his work and ten years later was instrumental in helping to get Price’s first book, A Long and Happy Life, published.

Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree from Duke, Price attended Merton College, University of Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar. He received a bachelor of letters degree from Oxford in 1958 and returned to Duke University in that year as an assistant professor of English. Except for brief intervals, Price continued to teach there for the rest of his career. Since 1977, he has held the position of James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke, where he has regularly taught courses in creative writing and on the poetry of John Milton.

Price, who never married, burst on the literary scene auspiciously when Harper’s magazine devoted the whole of its April, 1962, issue to printing A Long and Happy Life, which was being released in hardcover at about the same time. The critical reception of this first novel was enthusiastic and brought Price the prestigious Faulkner Foundation Award for a first novel.

In 1963, Price visited England, and in the same year a...

(The entire section is 897 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Born into the Depression-era South, Reynolds Price lived in poverty during his early childhood. The son of an alcoholic father and an only child until age eight, Price saw himself as someone on whom his parents leaned. His fiction contains numerous characters who make demands on those who are not sure that they can bear the needy ones’ weight. Each of his major novels represents an attempt to mediate the tension between the demands of the community and the needs of the self, which is a central theme of Southern literature. In his portrayal of the artist as bisexual in The Source of Light, Price is particularly concerned with the self’s need for solitude. This means escaping from the pressures of conforming to a...

(The entire section is 413 words.)


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Born in 1933 in Macon, North Carolina, Edward Reynolds Price attended the state’s public schools before enrolling in Duke University in 1951. While a student, he published some work in the student literary magazine, Archive, and for a time served as the magazine’s editor. He showed one of his short stories, “Michael Egerton,” to Eudora Welty when she was visiting Duke. Welty shared it with her publisher, who later published Price’s first novel, A Long and Happy Life. The cover of the book bears endorsements from Welty and Harper Lee. Price graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Duke in 1955. He spent the next three years at Merton College in Oxford, on a Rhodes scholarship. These years are reflected in his novel Source of Light (1981).

In 1958, after Price returned to the United States, he joined the faculty of Duke University, where he initially taught a class on John Milton and later became the James B. Duke Professor of English. Price’s former students include the writers Josephine Humphreys and Anne Tyler.

In 1984, Price began having difficulty walking. Medical examinations revealed an infiltrating malignant tumor in his spinal column. Price endured radiation (the maximum dosage acceptable for a lifetime), a series of operations, and excruciating pain; the disease and treatments caused paraplegia. During his illness, Price wrote about his supernatural visions and his renewed faith. The themes of death and dying became more common in his works. Price wrote about his disease, the associated pain and depression, and the eventual remission in many of his poems and in A Whole New Life (1994). He began using more first-person narration but continued employing the voices of a range of characters.

Despite his illness, Price’s creativity and the volume of his writings escalated. Between 1986 and 1995, he published seventeen books, including six novels, two memoirs, and two books of poetry. Price attributes his productivity to a word processor, an assistant who helped with daily chores, and sublimation of sexual energies. He also continued to teach and give readings. On the National Public Radio program All Things Considered, he broadcast essays published as Feasting the Heart: Fifty-two Essays for the Air (2000).


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

When William Blackburn in the early 1950’s arranged Eudora Welty’s visit to Duke University to give a reading and comment on the work of undergraduates interested in creative writing, Edward Reynolds Price’s sample stood out among those of the others she saw. (A decade later, Price was back at Duke, after completing a residence at Merton College, Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar and from which he received a bachelor of letters degree in 1958.) Welty not only gave Price perceptive critiques of his early writing but also helped him to place A Long and Happy Life, which was published in 1962. It was through her interest and intervention that Harper’s magazine agreed to publish his first novel in...

(The entire section is 771 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Reynolds Price was born on February 1, 1933, in Macon, North Carolina. His father, William, was a traveling salesman; his mother, Elizabeth,...

(The entire section is 352 words.)