Shirley Jackson Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in San Francisco, California, in 1916, Shirley Hardie Jackson is best known as a writer of short stories and novels that frighten as well as entertain their readers. Jackson is generally judged to be a skilled storyteller and a significant figure in American literature. Her wit, clear style, and narrative ability make her work enjoyably readable. At the same time, most critics believe that Jackson’s characters and themes lack the depth found in the work of a great writer.

Jackson had a comfortable early family life with her father, Leslie H. Jackson, president of a label and lithograph company; her mother, Geraldine Bugee, who came from a family of educated, prominent professionals; and her brother, K. Barry. As a young woman, Jackson believed in the supernatural. Early diary entries show that she was also beset by what would be a lifelong feeling of inferiority and a sense of being an outsider.

After two years at the University of Rochester, in New York, Jackson was dismissed and spent a year writing conscientiously every day. She then entered Syracuse University, where she met her future husband, fellow student and future literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, with whom she edited a controversial campus magazine, Spectre.

Jackson began her prolific short-story publishing in 1941 with “My Life with R. H. Macy,” a satirical account of a part-time job at Macy’s department store in New York City, followed by “After You, My Dear Alphonse,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1943. The latter story concerns prejudice against blacks, which Jackson had protested during her years at Syracuse. When Hyman became a professor of English at Bennington...

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Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco on December 14, 1919. She later moved with her family to Rochester, New York, and eventually attended the University of Rochester. After two years in college, she dropped out to devote herself to writing (although some say she was asked to leave), training herself to produce at least one thousand words a day. In 1937, after several years of writing without any publications, she enrolled at Syracuse University, where she published her first short story, “Janice,” about a coed who committed suicide. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in 1940.

While at Syracuse, Jackson met her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, who was the editor of the school’s literary magazine. They married in 1940 and eventually had four children. In 1948 Jackson published “The Lottery” in The New Yorker, which instantly made her famous. As an adult, Jackson experienced periods of depression and anxiety, which sometimes became severe. By 1960 she was often afraid to go shopping alone or leave the house. Jackson died of a heart attack in 1965.

Over the course of her life, she wrote six novels, two autobiographies, three children’s books, essays on the craft of writing, and numerous short stories. Although now known as an accomplished minor figure, during her lifetime she received several literary honors. In 1960 Jackson was nominated for but did not receive the National Book Award for The Haunting of Hill House. In 1962 she was noted by Time magazine for writing one of the “Ten Best Novels” (also for The Haunting of Hill House). In 1966 she won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for her short story “The Possibilities of Evil.”


(Short Stories for Students)

Born December 14, 1919, into an affluent family in San Francisco, California, Jackson wanted to be a writer from an early age. She wrote...

(The entire section is 303 words.)