Understanding Edward P. Jones
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A comprehensive survey of the works of an acclaimed African American writer

In Understanding Edward P. Jones, James W. Coleman analyzes Jones's award-winning works as well as the significant influences that have shaped his craft. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Jones has made that city and its African American community the subject of or background for most of his fiction.

Though Jones's first work was published in 1976, his career developed slowly. While he worked for two decades as a proofreader and abstractor, Jones published short fiction in such periodicals as Essence, the New Yorker, and Paris Review. His first collection, Lost in the City, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and subsequent books, including The Known World and All Aunt Hagar's Children, received similar accolades, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Following an overview of Jones's life, influences, and career, Coleman provides an introduction to the technique of Jones's fiction, which he likens to a tapestry, woven of intricate, varied, and sometimes disparate elements. He then analyzes the formal structure, themes, and characters of The Known World and devotes a chapter each to the short story collections Lost in the City and All Aunt Hagar's Children. His discussion of these volumes focuses on Jones's narrative technique; the themes of family, community, and broader tradition; and the connections through which the stories in each volume collectively create a thematic whole. In his final chapter, Coleman assesses Jones's encompassing outlook that sees African American life in distinct periods but also as a historical whole, simultaneously in the future, the past, and the present.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 juillet 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611176452
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,2100€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Matthew J. Bruccoli, Founding Editor Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
Volumes on Edward Albee | Sherman Alexie | Nelson Algren | Paul Auster Nicholson Baker | John Barth | Donald Barthelme | The Beats Thomas Berger | The Black Mountain Poets | Robert Bly | T. C. Boyle Truman Capote | Raymond Carver | Michael Chabon | Fred Chappell Chicano Literature | Contemporary American Drama Contemporary American Horror Fiction Contemporary American Literary Theory Contemporary American Science Fiction, 1926-1970 Contemporary American Science Fiction, 1970-2000 Contemporary Chicana Literature | Robert Coover | Philip K. Dick James Dickey | E. L. Doctorow | Rita Dove | Don DeLillo Dave Eggers | Louise Erdrich | John Gardner | George Garrett | Tim Gautreaux William Gibson | John Hawkes | Joseph Heller | Lillian Hellman | Beth Henley James Leo Herlihy | David Henry Hwang | John Irving | Randall Jarrell Charles Johnson | Diane Johnson | Edward P. Jones | Adrienne Kennedy William Kennedy | Jack Kerouac | Jamaica Kincaid | Etheridge Knight Tony Kushner | Ursula K. Le Guin | Jonathan Letham | Denise Levertov Bernard Malamud | David Mamet | Bobbie Ann Mason | Colum McCann Cormac McCarthy | Jill McCorkle | Carson McCullers | W. S. Merwin Arthur Miller | Steven Millhauser | Lorrie Moore | Toni Morrison s Fiction Vladimir Nabokov | Gloria Naylor | Joyce Carol Oates | Tim O Brien Flannery O Connor | Cynthia Ozick | Suzan-Lori Parks | Walker Percy Katherine Anne Porter | Richard Powers | Reynolds Price | Annie Proulx Thomas Pynchon | Theodore Roethke | Philip Roth | Richard Russo | May Sarton Hubert Selby, Jr. | Mary Lee Settle | Sam Shepard | Neil Simon | Isaac Bashevis Singer Jane Smiley | Gary Snyder | William Stafford | Robert Stone | Anne Tyler Gerald Vizenor | Kurt Vonnegut | David Foster Wallace | Robert Penn Warren James Welch | Eudora Welty | Colson Whitehead | Tennessee Williams August Wilson | Charles Wright
James W. Coleman
2016 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-61117-644-5 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-61117-645-2 (ebook)
Front cover photograph by Bettina Strauss http://best-foto.com
For a third time to my sons, Jay and Lee Coleman, whose love continues to support me
Series Editor s Preface
Chapter 1 Understanding Edward P. Jones
Chapter 2 Meaning, Structure, and Story in The Known World
Chapter 3 The Known World s Characters
Chapter 4 The Stories of Lost in the City
Chapter 5 The Stories of All Aunt Hagar s Children
Chapter 6 Jones s Vision and Its Development
The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931-2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.
As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed. Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers-explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives-and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.
In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
Understanding Edward P. Jones
Several lines of Langston Hughes s poem Mother to Son could be Edward P. Jones s mother s words to him describing her life and partly foreshadowing his: Well, son, I ll tell you: / Life for me ain t been no crystal stair. / It s had tacks in it, / And splinters, / And boards torn up, / And places with no carpet on the floor- / Bare. The fact that Jones s family moved 18 times in 18 years (Murphy 23) as his mother struggled to keep herself and her three children together sums up much of their no crystal stair life. Perhaps because of this reality, Jones is a truly humble, down-to-earth man, but also because of his relationship to his mother and his own too often precarious life, he ironically has risen to greatness as a writer.
Born in Arlington, Virginia, on October 5, 1950, Jones, a bachelor who has always lived alone and does not own a car, still resides in a rented apartment in Arlington, and has lived mostly in this area around Washington, D.C., except for time away earning his BA (1972) at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his MFA (1981) at the University of Virginia. Jones s father left when he was a preschooler, and his mother Jeanette, an impoverished, illiterate maid and menial worker, took care of him, his sister, and his brother and influenced him greatly. Jones went to public schools in Washington, D.C. Always having a love for reading, he read comic books early in life; he did not begin to read novels until he was thirteen. When he began reading black writers, the novel that made the greatest impression on him was Richard Wright s Native Son . He wrote his first fiction as a sophomore at Holy Cross, but did not consider writing as a career while in college. When he graduated in 1972, the highlight was his mother s attendance after she had had several strokes: He didn t expect his mother to be able to make the trip. When I walked into the stadium, I looked up in the stands, and there she was, he says. They told me later that when they were driving here, and she got her first glimpse of Holy Cross up on the hill [overlooking Worcester], she started crying. That was the first time she d ever seen it (Murphy 25).
When he returned to Washington after graduation, his mother became ill and died in January 1975. After she died, Jones, working sporadically and barely able to take care of himself, published his first story in Essence in 1976. The four hundred dollars Essence paid him allowed him to stay in Washington instead of moving to New York with his sister as he had planned. Later, he went to graduate school in creative writing at the University of Virginia. After he returned to Washington, he worked as a columnist and proofreader for Tax Notes , a tax-related newsletter in Arlington, from 1983 to 2001. This was a steady job although not a high-paying one, and during this time he published Lost in the City (1992), his first collection of stories and first major work, influenced by James Joyce s Dubliners and Richard Wright s Uncle Tom s Children. Lost in the City was nominated for the National Book Award (1992) and won the PEN/Hemingway Award (1993). This did not mean the end of Jones s hardship, though. In 2001 he lost his job; however, ironically this also freed up his time to work on his novel about slavery, The Known World (2003). While writing the novel, he was depressed and on and off medication; his imagination of the misery of the slaves in the novel turned out to be therapy for his own pain. The novel has become the foundation of his fame. Among several prestigious awards, it won the Pulitzer Prize and earned Jones the McArthur Genius Award in 2004. (The Genius Award is a $625,000 grant awarded annually by the McArthur Foundation, usually to twenty to twenty-five people in different fields who have done exceptional work and show exceptional potential.) His second collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar s Children (2006), was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
Both of the short story volumes set in Washington and the novel set in Virginia before the Civil War connect emotionally and culturally to Jones life in the area, and to the larger contemporary cultural milieu of black and white America. Jones has said about the emotional and cultural influences on All Aunt Hagar s Children: I have spent . . . all my life in D.C. Ninety percent of what I remember and use in this work has to do with my mother and the other ten percent comes from the people I knew when I was growing up who were adults born and raised in the South. They brought all that they knew and what they did and what they learned in the South to Washington (Graham 432). This could also apply to Lost in the City . Further, Jones has said that in America he still sees definite signs of the institution of slavery that he portrays in The Known World: It is as if slavery were legal now. All Americans absorb and become part [of slavery s legacy that] is in the culture (Graham 427, 428).
Jones has been teaching at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., since 2010. Some recent interview statements indicate that while teaching he is waiting for his next writ

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