Salinger and his short fiction

Bryan, James Edward,, Department of English, University of Virginia
Day, Douglas, University of Virginia
Winner, Anthony, University of Virginia

Much has been written about the works of J. D. Salinger, more perhaps than about any other post-war writer. Many of the essays are appreciations, some are attacks, and surprisingly few provide searching analyses of Individual works. I proposed originally to treat all of Salinger's fiction, an intention a Salinger character aptly describes when he scoffs at "thesis preparers with very natural, oaty urges to write us under the table in their off-campus time." With few exceptions, essays attempting to be definitive in one or another approach to Salinger's work manifest my own struggles and failure to account for the richness of the best stories.

I believe that Salinger's best stories are literature of a high order. Since readers who consider the short story an inherently inferior genre will not be convinced, I addressed myself to those who either agree with Faulkner that the story is a more demanding art form than the novel or who maintain an open mind. My Intention was to document this estimate of Salinger's fiction with the most intensive possible study of individual works. This intensity scaled down the dimensions of the study to analyses of five representative stories and it provided me with a revelation about the limitations of criticism. I found--perhaps this is the first lesson of a thesis--that no matter how accurate and exhaustive my analyses seemed, they expressed only a small, even insignificant part of my responses to the works. If, as I hope, this study demonstrates that Salinger is so gifted a craftsman of the short story that a lesser artist would be content to make novels of material Salinger compresses into stories, I have barely begun to suggest the impact, the strength and delicacy of those stories. In trying to describe Salinger's art, I have been able only to write about his artistry.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
J. D. Salinger, literature

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:24.

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