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Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol  Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates grew up in the countryside outside of Lockport, New York, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse in the elementary grades. As a small child, she told stories instinctively by way of drawing and painting before learning how to write. After receiving the gift of a typewriter at age fourteen, she began consciously training herself, "writing novel after novel" throughout high school and college. After graduating from college as valedictorian of Syracuse University, she earned an M.A. in English at the University of Wisconsin and settled in Detroit. Between 1968 and 1978, Ms. Oates taught at the University of Windsor in Canada, just across the Detroit river. During this immensely productive decade, she published new books at the rate of two or three per year and quickly become one of the most respected and honored writers in the United States while still in her 30s. In 1978, Ms. Oates moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she continues to teach in Princeton University's creative writing program; she and her late husband also operated a small press and published a literary magazine, The Ontario Review. Shortly after arriving in Princeton, Ms. Oates began writing Bellefleur, the first in a series of ambitious Gothic novels that marked a departure from the psychological realism of her earlier work. But Ms. Oates returned powerfully to the realistic mode with ambitious family chronicles (You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart), novels of female experience (Solstice, Marya : A Life), and even a series of pseudonymous suspense novels. She has also written several plays, many published in collections and acting editions by Samuel French, including Wild Nights!..., I Stand Before You Naked, and Dr. Magic: Six One Act Plays. The dramatic trajectory of Ms. Oates's career, especially her amazing rise from an economically straitened childhood to her current position as one of the world's most eminent authors, suggests a feminist, literary version of the mythic pursuit and achievement of the American dream. Yet for all her success and fame, Ms. Oates's daily routine of teaching and writing has changed very little. Not surprisingly, a quotation from Henry James is affixed to the bulletin board over her desk, and perhaps best expresses her own ultimate view of her life and writing: "We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." [Adapted from "A Brief Biography" by Greg Johnson.]


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