Ernest J. Gaines: A Critical Companion

Overview

Drawing on his rich Louisiana past, Ernest J. Gaines creates a fictional world representative of the human experience. His work explores the complex racial relationships—so much a part of Southern history and culture—and the unwritten and unspoken conventions of caste and class. Often structured around journeys of discovery, Gaines' works affirm the integrity of the individual and the unequivocal place in American life for Americans of African descent. This study offers a clear, accessible reading of Gaines' ...

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Overview

Drawing on his rich Louisiana past, Ernest J. Gaines creates a fictional world representative of the human experience. His work explores the complex racial relationships—so much a part of Southern history and culture—and the unwritten and unspoken conventions of caste and class. Often structured around journeys of discovery, Gaines' works affirm the integrity of the individual and the unequivocal place in American life for Americans of African descent. This study offers a clear, accessible reading of Gaines' fiction. It analyzes in turn all of Gaines' novels as well as his collection of short stories. A complete bibliography of Gaines' fiction, as well as selected reviews and criticism, completes the study.

Following a biographical chapter on Gaines' life, an overview of his fiction explores his work in light of his literary heritage and use of genre. Each of the following chapters examines an individual novel: Catherine Carmier (1964), Of Love and Dust (1967), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), In My Father's House (1978), A Gathering of Old Men (1983), A Lesson Before Dying (1994), and a collection of short stories, Bloodline (1968). The discussion of each work includes sections on plot and character development, thematic issues, and an alternative critical approach from which to read the novel. Carmean shows how each of Gaines' novels focuses on themes of personal value and place and affirms the need for recognizing the value of the individual, regardless of race. This study will help readers to understand the compelling issue of human relationships raised by Gaines and to see why he is one of America's finest writers.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Hilary S. Crew
Written by scholars for the general reader, titles in the Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers series offer biographical information and close literary analyses of the works of popular writers who have been chosen for inclusion by high school English teachers and high school and public librarians. Authors included in the series are Tom Clancy, James Herriot, Anne McCaffrey, Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler, and Leon Uris. Each title follows a uniform format: a biographical chapter, a chapter placing an author's work within the context of a literary map, chapters that analyze in-depth the most important works of an author, followed by an extensive bibliography. In her study of Amy Tan, Huntley provides a substantive account of the Asian American literary tradition describing concerns about biculturalism that Tan shares with other Asian American writers, as well as explaining the universality of Tan's work. In her analyses of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, and The Hundred Secret Senses, Huntley emphasizes Tan's "folk-story" narrative style and her employment of multiple genres and narratives. In keeping with the other titles in the series, Huntley looks at plot and character development, narrative structure, setting, major themes, and issues for each of the novels analyzed. A distinctive feature of the series is the alternative readings provided for significant works using different theoretical and critical approaches. Huntley, for example, employs cultural criticism for another reading of the The Joy Luck Club and feminist criticism for The Kitchen God's Wife. Carmean's study of Ernest Gaines follows a similar pattern of analysis but focuses on point of view, plot, themes, and particularly on Gaines's development of character for six of Gaines's novels plus Bloodlines, a collection of short stories. Carmean places Gaines within the tradition of literary realism and also discusses his place within the tradition of Southern writers. Carmean, like Huntley, provides alternative readings for each novel, including a Marxist reading of Of Love and Dust and a psychological reading of In My Father's House. Huntley and Carmean explain, with care, the literary terms and approaches that they employ so that their examinations are also useful for studying literary theories and criticism. A very useful series for high school students in terms of approach, scholarship, and choice of subjects.Index. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Note: This review was written and published to address two titles: Ernest J. Gaines: A Critical Companion, and Amy Tan: A Critical Companion. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P S (Hard to imagine it being better written, For the YA reader with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
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Product Details

Meet the Author

KAREN CARMEAN is Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Converse College.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Acknowledgments
1 The Life of Ernest J. Gaines 1
2 Genres 13
3 Catherine Carmier (1964) 21
4 Of Love and Dust (1967) 39
5 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) 59
6 In My Father's House (1978) 79
7 A Gathering of Old Men (1983) 99
8 A Lesson Before Dying (1994) 117
9 The Short Stories: Bloodline (1968) 137
Bibliography 157
Index 163
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