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Benito Rial Costas
Spanish Language in Chicana/o Literature
Spectacle and Détournement
Speech Acts and Performative Utterances
Sri Lankan American Literature and Culture
Christopher Jane Corkery
West meets East in the work of Jean Stafford. In her characters and plots, privilege, too, meets deprivation, nature the world of human relations, and genius the world of the utterly ordinary. Jean Stafford was born into a family that had no inkling of her gifts and no aptitude for encouraging them. Born on 1 July 1915, Stafford lived with her family in Covina, California, until she was six. John Stafford, her father, who had inherited a large sum of money in his youth, took the family to San Diego when he tired of a walnut farming endeavor, and in the course of a year lost all of his money on the stock market. For the rest of her dependent years, Jean Stafford's family was to know poverty intimately, and she was to feel herself socially ostracized because of it.
Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914, William Edgar Stafford moved frequently with his family during his childhood. The Great Depression bore heavily on the family; Stafford's biographer Judith Kitchen (1989) writes that young William's newspaper route was “at one point the family's only source of income” (p. 3). Despite these difficulties, the book-loving family remained close. Stafford completed high school and pursued further education at junior colleges, later working as a waiter to put himself through the University of Kansas.
Often called the “dean of Western writers,” Wallace Stegner is remembered as a teacher, writer, historian, and conservationist who privileged the idea of place, particularly wilderness as place, in the formation of personal and national identity.
Stephen K. George
John Steinbeck, author of such classics as Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and East of Eden (1952), remains firmly planted in the souls of his readers today. Ironically he is more popular with critics abroad than in his own country, yet he is read in more classrooms from Maine to California than any other American novelist. As Arthur Miller contends, no other author, “with the possible exception of Mark Twain, … so deeply penetrated the political life of the country” as Steinbeck did with the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. This epic novel, which even today registers number thirty-four on one list of America's fifty most banned books, continues to shape our view of the Great Depression, to enlarge our imaginations and social conscience concerning that era, and to provoke debate on our continued moral responsibilities toward the downtrodden. For many readers, John Steinbeck is not only the quintessential American, he is on the shortlist of authors whose work actually influences the way we live and see our world.
Dina Ripsman Eylon
Gertrude Stein, the expatriate American avant-garde author, poet, and playwright, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, on 3 February 1874. During her lifetime she was known as the “American eccentric in Paris” who collected and supported postmodernist and cubist art. Although a prolific writer and speaker, her literary contribution was marginalized and seldom recognized. At the age of sixty, astounding her friends and foes alike, she achieved international acclaim when her book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), became a sensational best-seller. Scholars later considered Stein one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, often dubbed as “the Mother of Modernism.” Stein's influence on a younger generation of writers like Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and Roger Wright has been underestimated and rarely explored. Known as “always a writer's writer,” she continues to inspire original writing, testing and challenging traditional literary and linguistic forms.
Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh in 1925. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1947 with a degree in English, and moved on to get a master's degree at Columbia University and to attend the University of Paris. He spent the next twenty years teaching high school and college, while writing but not publishing. He published his first poem, The Pineys, in 1969, long after all of the literary movements of his own generation. It was not until 1977, however, with the award-winning Lucky Life, that Stern finally emerged onto the scene of American poetry. He has since received numerous awards and recognitions, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Book Award for Poetry for his more recent This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998).
Emily R. Grosholz
Anne Stevenson, like T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and Sylvia Plath, is a poet whose literary life belongs both to the United States and to Great Britain. Born in Cambridge, England, on 3 January 1933 to American parents (Louise Destler Stevenson and the moral philosopher Charles Stevenson), she was raised in the United States and received her B.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1954. But her first marriage (which produced her daughter) was to an English businessman, and her second (which produced her two sons) brought her to Oxford, where her husband was a distinguished Sinologist. She then lived with her third husband, a farmer-poet, in the Welsh border country. Subsequently, after several sojourns in Cambridge, she and her husband Peter Lucas, a Darwin scholar, have divided their time between a house in Durham and a seventeenth-century cottage in North Wales.
There are two ways to describe the career of Wallace Stevens. One would be this: after having been born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1879, Stevens attended Harvard University and New York Law School; he began working in 1908 in the insurance industry, and in 1934 he was named vice president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he continued to work virtually until the day of his death in 1955. The other way of describing his career would be this: after publishing Harmonium in 1923, Stevens wrote no poems for almost a decade; but after his second book, Ideas of Order, appeared in 1935, he wrote consistently and in comparative obscurity for the rest of his life. His Collected Poems (1954) received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize after his death in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1955
Robert Stone has written that “the first law of heaven is that nothing is free,” and there are reasons enough to believe that he came by this hard truth early and ungently. He was born on 21 August 1937 in Brooklyn, New York, to a schizophrenic mother, Gladys Grant Stone, and an absent father, C. Homer Stone. By the age of six the young Stone found himself boarded in St. Ann's Marist academy—a quasi-orphanage, in his case—where physical and psychological brutality from both students and priests was daily fare. When his mother was well enough, Stone lived with her, taking trips to make “new starts” in various parts of the country, at least one of which ended with a stay in a homeless shelter. Despite, or perhaps in part because of such early dislocations of the spirit, the boy began to write stories that from the start garnered attention and praise, and which were obviously a welcome outlet for his stifled ambitions and for the active imagination that had hitherto served largely as a refuge.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Lorinda B. Cohoon
Harriet Beecher Stowe's reputationas an author of American literature is directly connected to Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly (1852), her first and best-known novel. With this text, Stowe gave American literature a novel that influenced the abolitionist movement, contributed to American iconography, and explored possibilities for women's involvement in political life. Stowe's text also offered fruitful material for puzzling over the quality of her writing and its peculiar power. During the nineteenth century, reviewers and critics debated Stowe's literary reputation, alternately praising her for her bold choices of subjects or criticizing her for her texts' artistic flaws. As the nature and importance of American literature were established in the early part of the twentieth century, literary historians either neglected to mention Stowe or compared her unfavorably to nineteenth-century male writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. These writers were seen as having written far superior material, especially in the areas of style and originality. In the late twentieth century and in the first few years of the twenty-first century critics have renewed their interest in Stowe's writing, focusing on her feminism, her talents as a regional writer, and the relevance of her travel narratives and other texts to cultural studies. Participants in ongoing discussions of representations of race in the nineteenth century continue to grapple with Stowe's characterizations of people of color. Whether celebrated or berated, Stowe's contributions to American literature cannot be ignored.
Mark Strand was born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, on 11 April 1934. Sandwiched between the celebrated generation of American poets born in 1927—John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, W. S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell, James Wright, and Donald Hall, among others—and those of the 1940s, Strand once joked that he, Charles Wright, and Charles Simic comprise a “generation of three.” Strand's parents left Canada when he was four, and he was raised and educated mainly in the United States and South America, returning to Nova Scotia for summers until he was twelve.