Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers, 1917–67, American novelist, b. Columbus, Ga. as Lula Carson Smith, studied at Columbia. The central theme of her novels is the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition. Her characters are usually outcasts and misfits whose longings for love are never fulfilled. In her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), a deaf-mute is the focus of a circle of sad and tormented people. The Member of the Wedding (1946; dramatization, 1950), her best-known work, is the tender story of a lonely adolescent girl. Her other works include the novels Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) and Clock without Hands (1961); a volume of stories, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1951; title story dramatized by Edward Albee in 1963); and a play, The Square Root of Wonderful (1958). As a result of misdiagnosed rheumatic fever in her adolescence, McCullers suffered a series of strokes during her twenties that left her partially paralyzed; during her last years she was confined to a wheelchair. A posthumous collection of her writings, The Mortgaged Heart, was published in 1972.

See her Complete Novels (2001); C. L. Dews, ed., Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers (1967, pub. 1999); biographies by O. W. Evans (1965), V. Spencer-Carr (1975), and J. Savigneau (2001); study by M. McDowell (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Carson McCullers
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1986
Growing Up Female: Adolescent Girlhood in American Fiction
Barbara A. White.
Greenwood Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "Loss of Self in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding"
Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender
Jerilyn Fisher; Ellen S. Silber.
Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Critiquing 'The We of Me': Gender Roles in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding" begins on p. 191
New American Gothic
Irving Malin.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Carson McCullers in multiple chapters
The Art of Southern Fiction: A Study of Some Modern Novelists
Frederick J. Hoffman.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1967
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers"
From Eros to Agape: Reconsidering the Chain Gang's Song in McCullers's "Ballad of the Sad Cafe." (Carson McCullers)
Whitt, Margaret.
Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 33, No. 1, Winter 1996
American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, vol.2, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Carson McCullers (1917-1967)" begins on p. 71
Radiant Daughters: Fictional American Women
Thelma J. Shinn.
Greenwood Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Carson McCullers begins on p. 19
The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story
Blanche H. Gelfant; Lawrence Graver.
Columbia University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Carson McCullers (1917-1967)" begins on p. 369
Contemporary American Novelists
Harry T. Moore.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1964
Librarian’s tip: "Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers" begins on p. 41
American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook
Laurie Champion.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Carson McCullers (1917-1967)" begins on p. 224
American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950
Yvonne Shafer.
Peter Lang, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Carson McCullers (1917-1967)" begins on p. 451
Fifty Southern Writers after 1900: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook
Joseph M. Flora; Robert Bain.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Carson McCullers (1917-1967)" begins on p. 301
Women, Literature, Criticism
Harry R. Garvin.
Bucknell University Press, 1978
Librarian’s tip: "'Bound' Characters in Porter, Welty, McCullers: The Prerevolutionary Status of Women in American Fiction" begins on p. 95
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