Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction

Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction

by Michial Farmer


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This book looks past the frequently discussed autobiographical nature of John Updike's fiction to consider the role in Updike's work of the most powerful and peculiar human faculty: the imagination. Michial Farmer argues that, while the imagination is for Updike a means of human survival and a necessary component of human flourishing, it also has a destructive, darker side, in which it shades into something like philosophical idealism. Here the mind constructs the world around it and then, unhelpfully, imposes this created world between itself and the "real world." In other words, Updike is not himself an idealist but sees idealism as a persistent temptation for the artistic imagination. Farmer builds his argument on the metaphysics of Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist thinker who has been largely neglected in discussions of Updike's aesthetics. The book demonstrates the degree to which Updike was an original and powerful thinker and not the callow sensationalist that he is sometimes accused of being.

Michial Farmer is Assistant Professor of English at Crown College, Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571139429
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
Publication date: 03/15/2017
Series: Mind and American Literature Series
Pages: 236
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Hawthorne, Updike, and the Immoral Imagination 1

1 John Updike and the Existentialist Imagination 10

Part I The "Mythic Immensity" of the Parental Imagination

2 "Flight," "His Mother Inside Him," and "Ace in the Hole" 39

3 The Centaur 45

4 Of the Farm, "A Sandstone Farmhouse," and "The Cats" 51

Part II Collective Hallucination in the Adulterous Society

5 "Man and Daughter in the Cold," "Giving Blood," "The Taste of Metal," and "Avec la Bébé-Sitter" 67

6 Marry Me 75

7 Couples and "The Hillies" 89

Part III Imaginative Lust in the Scarlet Letter Trilogy

8 "The Football Factory," "Toward Evening," "Incest," "Still Life," "Lifeguard," "Been Swings?" and "Three Illuminations in the Life of an American Author" 107

9 A Month of Sundays 119

10 Roger's Version 129

11 S. 138

Part IV Female Power and the Female Imagination

12 "Marching through Boston," "The Stare," "Report of Health," "Living with a Wife," and "Slippage" 151

13 The Witches of Eastwick 159

Part V The Remembering Imagination

14 "In Football Season," "First Wives and Trolley Cars," "The Day of the Dying Rabbit," "Leaving Church Early," and "The Egg Race" 173

15 Memories of the Ford Administration 184

16 "The Dogwood Tree," "A Soft Spring Night in Shillington," and "On Being a Self Forever" 192

Conclusion: Updike, Realism, and Postmodernism 201

Bibliography 207

Index 215

Credits 223

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