Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: The Writing of Joyce Carol Oates

“Joyce Carol Oates, born in 1938, was perhaps born a hundred years too late; she needs a lustier audience, a race of Victorian word-eaters, to be worthy of her astounding productivity….

She has, I fear, rather overwhelmed the puny, mean-minded critical establishment of this country. Single-mindedness and efficiency rather than haste underlie her prolificacy; if the phrase ‘woman of letters’ existed, she would be, foremost in this country, entitled to it.”

—John Updike, Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism

On October 8th, we opened our 2013 Autumn Lecture Series on American Life & Culture with a talk by Dr. Rachael McLennan on the career of one of our most celebrated living authors, Joyce Carol Oates.

This year’s Lecture Series focuses on the year 1963, in which the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library opened its doors and in which the University of East Anglia, home to our colleagues in the School of American Studies, welcomed its first wave of students.

1963 is a key point on the timeline of contemporary American Literature as well: with the publication of a short story collection (By the North Gate) in that year, Joyce Carol Oates began a prolific writing career that is still going strong.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of an exhaustive list of other awards, Oates embodies at once the romantic legacy of a bygone literary era (she still writes in longhand) and the energy of an ultramodern professional (she still teaches at Princeton…she’s on Twitter).

Norfolk County Libraries readers can find a great range of Oates in their local branches, searchable in the catalogue here. These are just a few of the titles available:

In the meantime, you can read an early Oates short story, ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ on this website from the University of San Francisco. The story was included in The Best American Short Stories of 1967 and was later made into a film. Oates dedicated the story to Bob Dylan, having been inspired by his song ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’. On the same USF website, you can read Oates’s biography, criticism, blog, and also see what she’s working on currently.

Please join us for our next lecture on November 5th in the Curve Auditorium. Illuminating one of 1963’s most momentous events, Joseph Broadbent will present ‘The JFK Assassination and the Culture of Conspiracy’. Tickets, as always, are free. Please call or email us to reserve a seat.

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Filed under American Culture, Books, Public Events

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