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Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times
     

Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times

by Janis P. Stout
 

Katherine Anne Porter's life closely paralleled that of her century not only in its span (1890-1980) but in its interests and contradictions. A communist sympathizer who became a quasi fascist, a cosmopolitan who embraced southern agrarianism, a femme fatale whose writings nonetheless evince feminist feeling, Porter embodied, often at their extremes, the major

Overview

Katherine Anne Porter's life closely paralleled that of her century not only in its span (1890-1980) but in its interests and contradictions. A communist sympathizer who became a quasi fascist, a cosmopolitan who embraced southern agrarianism, a femme fatale whose writings nonetheless evince feminist feeling, Porter embodied, often at their extremes, the major currents of her time and ours. In this new biography Janis P. Stout argues that these inconsistencies can be viewed as part and parcel of modernism itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this engrossing scholarly study, Stout, an English professor at Texas A&M and a novelist (A Family Likeness), emphasizes the historical context of Porter's writing. A consummate stylist noted for the outstanding craftsmanship with which she shaped short stories (e.g., ``Pale Horse, Pal Rider''), Porter (1890-1980) worked so slowly that it took her 25 years to complete a major novel (Ship of Fools). Stout, drawing on the Texas-raised Porter's letters, describes the author as a difficult and conflicted woman. She was a Communist during the 1920s but later embraced conservative attitudes. Without excusing Porter's virulent racism (she called Martin Luther King Jr. an ``agitator'' who led a ``gang of thugs and hoodlums''), Stout attributes most of it to her upbringing, noting also that Porter intensely disliked homosexuals and feminists and was frequently unkind to her four husbands and other lovers. Stout treats Porter not as an intellectual but as a writer devoted to her work, who drew on her past to create artful fiction. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Library Journal
Katherine Anne Porter was a master of short fiction and one of the great stylists of the 20th century. Sorting out the reality of her life is not easy because she continually reinvented herself and her family history. Stout (Strategies of Reticence: Silence and Meaning in the Works of Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, and Joan Didion, Univ. of Virginia Press, 1990) shows how Porter distilled and re-created her past to create her best fiction. She also shows how Porter addressed significant political and social issues, including communism, pacifisim, feminism, and the artist's need for freedom of expression in letters and essays. In this intellectual biography, Stout sees Porter as a significant representative of modernist thought, and in assessing the quality of Porter's mind she makes sense of contradictions and inconsistencies that appeared over time in her writing. This intelligent, well-researched, honest, yet sympathetic biography is highly recommended.-Judy Mimken, Boise, Id.
Booknews
Porter was a communist sympathizer who became a quasi fascist, a cosmopolitan who embraced southern agrarianism, and a femme fatale whose writings evince feminist feeling. Her biographer argues that the inconsistencies in Porter's life parallel that of her century (1890- 1980). He details her interactions with public figures including President Obregon of Mexico, Hermann Goering in Berlin, writers Eudora Welty and Allen Tate, and members of the Johnson White House. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813915685
Publisher:
University of Virginia Press
Publication date:
06/01/1995
Series:
Minds of the New South Ser.
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.41(d)

Meet the Author

Janis P. Stout is Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of English at Texas A&M University. She is the author of Sodoms in Eden: The City in American Fiction before 1860 and The Journey Narrative in American Literature: Patterns and Departures.

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