James Agee

James Agee (ā´jē), 1909–55, American writer, b. Knoxville, Tenn., grad. Harvard, 1932. He soon joined the literary and journalistic life of New York City, becoming (1932) a writer for Fortune magazine, a book reviewer and movie critic for Time (1939–48), and a film critic for The Nation (1942–48). During the 1950s he was a film scriptwriter, e.g., The African Queen (with John Huston, 1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), and also wrote for television. Agee's first major book is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), a prose commentary on the life of tenant farmers in the South in the 1930s with accompanying photographs by Walker Evans. His second major book, and probably best-known work, is the autobiographical and posthumously published novel A Death in the Family (1957; Pulitzer Prize), which recounts in poetic prose the tragic impact of a man's death on his wife and family. Agee's other works include The Morning Watch (1954), a novella with strong autobiographical elements,; Agee on Film (2 vol., 1958–60), a collection of reviews, comments, and scripts; Letters of James Agee to Father Flye (1962), a collection of letters to a former teacher; Collected Poems (1968); and Collected Short Prose (1969).

See his collected works, ed. by M. Sragow (2 vol., 2005); M. A. Lofaro, ed., A Death in the Family: A Restoration of the Author's Text (2008); biographies by G. Moreau (1977) and L. Bergreen (1984); R. Spears and J. Cassidy, ed., Agee: His Life Remembered (1985); studies by P. H. Ohlin (1966), A. G. Barson (1972), V. A. Kramer (1975), M. A. Doty (1981), M. A. Lofaro (1992), J. Lowe (1994), A. Spiegel (1998), and H. Davis (2008).

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

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Agee: Selected Literary Documents
Victor A. Kramer; James Agee.
Whitston, 1996
Letters of James Agee to Father Flye
James Agee; James Harold Flye.
G. Braziller, 1962
Agee and Actuality: Artistic Vision in His Work
Victor A. Kramer.
Whitston, 1991
The Deceptive Anarchy of 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.'
Jackson, Bruce.
The Antioch Review, Vol. 57, No. 1, Winter 1999
They Must Be Represented: The Politics of Documentary
Paula Rabinowitz.
Verso, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Voyeurism and Class Consciousness: James Agee and Walker Evans Praise Famous Men"
A Sourcebook of American Literary Journalism: Representative Writers in An Emerging Genre
Thomas B. Connery.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "James Agee" begins on p. 197
Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture
Bruce Robbins.
Verso, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "'Half My Right of Speech': James Agee" begins on p. 147
The Art of Southern Fiction: A Study of Some Modern Novelists
Frederick J. Hoffman.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1967
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "James Agee and Flannery O'Connor: The Religious Consciousness"
Contemporaries
Alfred Kazin.
Little, Brown, 1962
A Library of Literary Criticism: Modern American Literature
Dorothy Nyren; Dorothy Nyren.
Frederick Ungar, 1960 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Agee, James (1909-1955)" begins on p. 5
Fifty Southern Writers after 1900: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook
Joseph M. Flora; Robert Bain.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "James Agee (1909-1955)" begins on p. 9
Doing Documentary Work
Robert Coles.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of James Agee in multiple chapters
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