John Updike (1932-2009)

A selective list of online literary criticism and analysis for the 20th-century American novelist, short story writer, poet, reviewer, and essayist John Updike, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars and articles published in peer-reviewed sources


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introduction & biography

"John Updike," ed. George J. Searles. A brief biography and introduction. Also, "John Updike," a guide for teachers, focusing on questions of whether Updike's work is too limited in its concern with the WASP or yuppie environment, and whether it proceeds from a too exclusively male perspective. From the educational publisher The Heath Anthology of American Literature.

Pritchard, William H. The first chapter of Updike: America's Man of Letters is reprinted at NYTimes. Complete book at questia subscription service. Reviewed NYTimes, 24 Sept. 2000.

"Interviews." The John Updike Society has a thorough list of links to interviews given by Updike, news about his childhood home, and more.

Wolcott, James. "Caretaker/Pallbearer." Wolcott says of Updike, "In his native land he blends the roles of novelist, historian, social critic, civics teacher, randy theologian, anthropologist, dermatologist, photorealist illuminator of drugstore aisle and automobile showroom (every shiny accent in place), and caretaker/pallbearer of the New Yorker tradition of scrupulous observation salted with a proper measure of irony, acerbity, dismay and regret, depending on the circumstance or site under inspection." London Review of Books 31 (Jan. 2009).

"The Early Days of John Updike '54." Article from the Harvard Univ. Gazette about Updike's years at Harvard, as "the confident president of the Harvard Lampoon," by Roberta Gordon, 30 April 30 1998.

Boswell, Marshall. "John Updike." An introduction to Updike from the Literary Encyclopedia, 18 March 2004 [subscription service] .


literary criticism: "A&P"

Brauner, David. "Much Ado about Nothing: Boredom, Banality, and Bathos in Late Henry Green and Early John Updike." The Yearbook of English Studies, 42 (2012) [jstor, first para only].

Porter, M. Gilbert. "John Updike's 'A&P': The Establishment and an Emersonian Cashier." The English Journal, 61, 8 (Nov. 1972) [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Saldivar, Toni. "The Art of John Updike's 'A&P.'" Studies in Short Fiction, 34, 2 (Spring 1997) [questia sub ser, substantial preview].

Wells, Walter. "John Updike's 'A&P': a return visit to 'Araby.'" Wells contends that Updike's "A&P" was influenced by James Joyce's short story "Araby." Studies in Short Fiction 30, 2 (Spring 1993) [questia sub ser, substantial preview].


the Rabbit novels: Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest

"Interview with John Updike." Focuses on the "Rabbit" novels and Updike's longstanding interest in chronicling the terrors and pleasures of sex, marriage, adultery, parenthood and religion that ordinary Americans have experienced over the past 30 years. From the National Book Award Foundation.

Ahearn, Kerry. "Family and Adultery: Images and Ideas in Updike's Rabbit Novels." Understanding a writer "who has defeated a High Culture bias against the novel of manners by restricting himself to the supposedly barren settings of America's middle-class cultural homogeneity." Twentieth Century Literature 34, 1 (Spring 1988) pp 62-83 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Boswell, Marshall. John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion (U of Missouri P 2001) [complete book avail at questia sub ser].

Colgan, John-Paul. "Going it Alone but Running out of Gas: America's Borders in John Updike's "Rabbit" Novels." Irish Journal of American Studies 11/12, 1 (2002/2003) pp 73-86 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Lasseter, Victor K. "Rabbit is Rich as a Naturalistic Novel." American Literature 61, 3 (Oct. 1989) pp 429-45 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Neary, John M. "'Ah: Runs': Updike, Rabbit, and Repetition." Neary defends Updike from a criticism that his Christianity is cold and selfish. Religion & Literature 21, 1 (Spring 1989) pp 89-110 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

O'Connell, Mary. Updike and the Patriarchal Dilemma: Masculinity in the Rabbit Novels (Southern Illinois UP 1996) [complete book avail at questia sub ser].

Pasewark, Kyle A. "The Troubles with Harry: Freedom, America, and God in John Updike's Rabbit Novels." Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 6, 1 pp 1-33 [jstor preview or purchase].


Updike's other fiction, and general studies

Donahue, Peter. "Pouring Drinks and Getting Drunk: The Social and Personal Implications of Drinking in John Updike's 'Too Far to Go.'" Studies in Short Fiction, 33, 3 (Summer 1996).

Miller, D. Quentin. John Updike and the Cold War: Drawing the Iron Curtain (U of Missouri P 2001). [complete book avail at questia sub ser]. Reviewed by James A. Schiff in MFS Modern Fiction Studies.

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Joyce Carol Oates on John Updike." A collection of articles by novelist and professor Joyce Carol Oates. Oates' academic web site.

Olster, Stacey. Publisher's site for The Cambridge Companion to John Updike (Cambridge UP 1996). To read the introduction, "A Sort of Helplessly 50’s Guy," click on "Excerpt."

Pinsker, Sanford. "Is John Updike a Dinosaur?" The American Scholar, 69, 1 (Winter 2000) pp 150-3 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Pritchard, William H. "Updike's Way." Pritchard defends Updike from the criticism of self-absorption leveled in "Twilight of the Phallocrats" by Sven Birkerts and David Foster Wallace. New England Review 21, 3 (Summer 2000) [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Prosser, Jay. "Under the Skin of John Updike: Self-Consciousness and the Racial Unconscious." PMLA, 116, 3 (May 2001) pp 579-593 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Prosser, Jay. "The Thick-Skinned Art of John Updike: 'From the Journal of a Leper'." The Yearbook of English Studies 31 (2001) pp 182-91 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].

Robinson, Sally. "'Unyoung, Unpoor, Unblack': John Updike and the Construction of Middle American Masculinity." From: MFS Modern Fiction Studies 44, 2 (Summer 1998) pp 331-63 [muse, substantial preview].

Vargo, Edward P. "The Necessity of Myth in Updike's The Centaur." PMLA 88, 3 (May, 1973) pp 452-60 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].


Updike the poet

"John Updike." A brief introduction to Updike in the context of other poet novelists. Academy of American Poets.

"John Updike." Updike as a poet is briefly discussed at the Poetry Foundation, and the texts for 22 of his most famous poems are available.

"Inside Game." John Updike answers questions about his poem "Ex-Basketball Player." Poetry Foundation.

"Putting a Form to Death." Updike's poem "Dog's Death" is used as a writing prompt for the assignment giving form to a perception at Poets Online, a web site for poetry writers. James Dickey's "The Heaven of Animals" might form the basis for a compare and contrast discussion of Updike's frequently assigned poem "Dog's Death."

Greiner, Donald J. The Other John Updike: Poems, Short Stories, Prose, Plays (Ohio UP 1981) [questia sub ser, complete book avail].


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