John Gardner

John Gardner (John Champlin Gardner, Jr.), 1933–82, American writer, b. Batavia, N.Y. He was a teacher, lecturer, and prolific writer of fiction, children's books, poetry, radio plays, and scholarly medieval studies. He studied at Washington Univ., St. Louis (grad. 1955) and Iowa State Univ. (M.A., 1956; Ph.D., 1958) and taught creative writing and medieval literature at a number of American colleges. His novels include Resurrection (1966), The Wreckage of Agathon (1970), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), Nickel Mountain (1973), October Light (1976), and Freddie's Book (1980). Among his volumes of short stories are The King's Indian (1974) and The Art of Living (1981).

Frequently exploring philosophical questions, his novels sometimes derive from literary sources. Gardner first gained notice with Grendel (1971), which recasts the story of Beowulf with the monster as the protagonist. In his controversial work of criticism, On Moral Fiction (1978), Gardner defends the importance of maintaining a high moral purpose in fiction and criticizes his contemporaries for indulging in cleverness at the expense of the traditional strengths of the novel. He also wrote On Becoming a Novelist (1983) and The Art of Fiction (1984). Many of his critical essays were collected in On Writers and Writing (1994).

See biography by B. Silesky (2004); studies by D. Cowart (1983) and L. Butts (1988).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

John Gardner: Critical Perspectives
Robert A. Morace; Kathryn VanSpanckeren.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1982
Arches & Light: The Fiction of John Gardner
David Cowart.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1983
On Moral Fiction
John Gardner.
Basic Books, 2000
The Alliterative Morte Arthure: The Owl and the Nightingale, and Five Other Middle English Poems in a Modernized Version
John Gardner.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1973
Writers and Philosophers: A Sourcebook of Philosophical Influences on Literature
Edmund J. Thomas; Eugene G. Miller.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of John Gardner begins on p. 71
John Gardner: A Bibliographical Profile
By John M. Howell.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1980
John Gardner's "The Ravages of Spring" as Re-Creation of "The Fall of the House of Usher."
Fenlon, Katherine Feeney.
Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 3, Summer 1994
Literary Subversions: New American Fiction and the Practice of Criticism
Jerome Klinkowitz.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: "John Gardner's Grendel" begins on p. 97
Immortal Monster: The Mythological Evolution of the Fantastic Beast in Modern Fiction and Film
Joseph D. Andriano.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Monsters of the Mere: 'Twisted Roots': Grendel the Ape-Man"
John Gardner as Mentor
Johnson, Charles.
African American Review, Vol. 30, No. 4, Winter 1996
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