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Jean Stafford

Jean Stafford
The Savage Heart

In this literary biography, Goodman traces the life of the brilliant but troubled Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Jean Stafford, and reassesses her importance.

April 1990
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416 pages | 6 x 9 | 15 b&w photos |

One of America's best short story writers and author of three fine novels, Boston Adventure (1944), The Mountain Lion (1947), and The Catherine Wheel (1952), Jean Stafford has been rediscovered by another generation of readers and scholars. Although her novels and her Pulitzer Prize–winning short stories were widely read in the 1940s and 1950s, her fiction has received less critical attention than that of other distinguished contemporary American women writers such as Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, and Eudora Welty. In this literary biography, Charlotte M. Goodman traces the life of the brilliant yet troubled Jean Stafford and reassesses her importance.

Drawing on a wealth of original material, Goodman describes the vital connections between Stafford's life and her fiction. She discusses Stafford's difficult family relationships, her tempestuous first marriage to the poet Robert Lowell, her unresolved conflicts about gender roles, her alcoholism and bouts with depression—and her amazing ability to transform the chaotic details of her life into elegant works of fiction. These wonderfully crafted works offer insightful portraits of alienated and isolated characters, most of whom exemplify not only human estrangement in the modern world, but also the special difficulties of girls and women who refuse to play traditional roles.

Goodman locates Jean Stafford within the literary world of the 1940s and 1950s. In her own right, and through her marriages to Robert Lowell, Life magazine editor Oliver Jensen, and journalist A. J. Liebling, Stafford associated with many of the major literary figures of her day, including the Southern Fugitives, the New York intellectual coterie, and writers for the New Yorker, to which she regularly contributed short stories. Goodman also describes Stafford's sustaining friendships with other women writers, such as Evelyn Scott and Caroline Gordon, and with her New Yorker editor, Katharine S. White.

This highly readable biography will appeal to a wide audience interested in twentieth-century literature and the writing of women's lives.

  • Preface
  • 1. The Shorn Lamb: 1915–1922
  • 2. Cowboys and Indians and Magic Mountains: 1922–1936
  • 3. Old Flaming Youth: 1936–1938
  • 4. I Love Someone: Summer and Fall 1938
  • 5. Boston Adventure: Winter 1938–Spring 1940
  • 6. Sensations Sweet and Sour: Summer 1940–Fall 1943
  • 7. An Influx of Poets: Fall 1943–Fall 1946
  • 8. The Bleeding Heart: Fall 1946–Summer 1949
  • 9. The Catherine Wheel: Fall 1949–Spring 1952
  • 10. In the Zoo: Summer 1952–Spring 1956
  • 11. Life Is No Abyss: Summer 1956–Winter 1963
  • 12. The End of a Career: January 1964–Spring 1975
  • 13. In the Snowfall: Summer 1975–Spring 1979
  • Notes
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments

Charlotte M. Goodman is Professor Emerita of English at Skidmore College.


“The integration of life and art, so central to a study of Jean Stafford's fiction, is the focus of Professor Goodman's book. Using the wealth of available documents and many interviews, this scholar explores the circumstances which contributed to a rebellious, often self-destructive personality.... Professor Goodman's meticulous use of sources makes her book a classic justification of studying an artist's life so closely as to know that events, elating or horrifying, can be transmuted into high aesthetic experience.”
American Literature


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