Shirley Jackson Biography

Shirley Jackson Biography

Shirley Jackson's name brings to most people's minds two words: “The Lottery.” This darkly ironic story has been sparking controversy since it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, when hundreds of people wrote letters in response. Many were openly confused by the story, and some were downright abusive; Jackson has said that only about a dozen of the letters struck a positive note. Though “The Lottery” is striking, its success was a mixed blessing for Jackson. The sheer amount of attention given to that one story can overshadow the extensive body of work she produced, just as her work’s dark tone and disturbing subject matter sometimes let people miss its high literary quality.

Facts and Trivia

  • Jackson attended the University of Rochester but didn’t graduate. She dropped out due to depression and grappled with mental health issues, including psychosomatic illnesses, her entire life.
  • Jackson was married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a literary critic who taught at Bennington College in Vermont. They had four children. Jackson’s stories about her experience raising these children are collected in Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons.
  • Many of Jackson’s works transform her experience into fiction, often taking a humorous or ironic approach to what she herself had been through. Her first published story, “My Life With R. H. Macy,” is a good example of this; it makes light of her time working in a department store.
  • South Africa banned “The Lottery.” When they did, Jackson said that it was a sign that they, at least, understood the story.
  • Her book The Haunting of Hill House was nominated for a National Book Award in 1960, a rare honor for a horror novel.

Biography

On December 14, 1916, Shirley Hardie Jackson was born to an affluent family in San Francisco. As soon as she learned to write, she began to pen poems, eventually winning a poetry contest at age twelve. In 1933, her family moved east to Rochester, New York, where Shirley went to high school and then on to the University of Rochester. She withdrew after two years, in part because of the tendency to depression which would haunt her for the rest of her life. During this hiatus from college, she developed a discipline of writing at least one thousand words every day.

In 1937, she enrolled in Syracuse University. She initially majored in journalism but then switched to an English major with a minor in speech. She published numerous pieces in school magazines over the following two years. A vehicle for her unconventional outlook was developed when she and two classmates started the literary campus magazine The Spectre. One of these classmates was Stanley Edgar Hyman, who would eventually become her husband.

Jackson and Hyman married after graduation in 1940, and moved to New York City, where Hyman got a job with The New Republic. Jackson worked at Macy’s department store for a short time. This experience formed the basis of her first nationally published short story “My Life with R. H. Macy.” Between 1942 and 1951, Jackson published almost twenty stories and two novels, gave birth to four children, and moved twice. Her famous...

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Biography

Because Jackson chose to handle unusual topics, such as psychosis and ghostly apparitions, some literary critics relegated her to a minor status. Both horror and humor are sometimes considered to be slightly disreputable genres, and many of Jackson’s works are categorized as these types. Jackson’s complete mastery of the writing craft, however, enabled her to achieve well-deserved commercial and critical success.

Biography

Shirley Jackson was born in California on December 14, 1916, and moved with her family to New York when she was sixteen. After an unsuccessful year at the University of Rochester, Jackson enrolled, at age twenty, in the University of Syracuse. This was to be the beginning of an independent life for the author, as she would finally be away from the dominating presence of her mother. At Syracuse, Jackson met Stanley Edgar Hyman, the man she would marry in 1940. Hyman achieved notoriety in his own right as a teacher, writer, and critic. The marriage between Jackson and Hyman was tumultuous in many ways but provided a stabilizing factor for Jackson. Her literary production increased markedly after the marriage and the birth of their...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

Biography

Shirley Jackson’s horrific fiction belies the biographical facts of her life. Her women characters in particular are often neurotic, alienated, or outcasts from their families and communities. Jackson herself, however, was by all accounts a happily married mother of four who balanced her literary career with activities ranging from school bake sales to entertaining friends, such as fellow author Ralph Ellison, in her family’s home in Vermont. Biographical material by her husband—the writer, teacher, and critic Stanley Edgar Hyman—stresses the disjuncture between her personal life and the content of her most famous fiction, which she viewed as a craft and profession, as opposed to a forum for self-revelation.

The...

(The entire section is 355 words.)