The Fiction of Stephen Crane

The Fiction of Stephen Crane

The Fiction of Stephen Crane

The Fiction of Stephen Crane

Excerpt

The recent work (since 1950) of John Berryman, Robert W. Stallman, Daniel Hoffman, Lillian Gilkes, Edwin Cady, and Eric Solomon on the life and work of Stephen Crane has served to stimulate and sustain interest in a writer who contributed significantly to the development of modem American literature. Between the time of the publication of Berryman's critical biography and the present a large body of criticism of Crane's work has evolved, some of it contributing greatly to our understanding of his work. However, it seems to me that generally this body of criticism suffers from a defect common to a great deal of modern criticism, its unconcern with rendering aesthetic judgments. When value judgments are made, they are likely to be no more than adulatory ones, which do not go far in helping the reader to evaluate Crane's work in itself or in relation to other American writers. An outstanding example to the contrary is John Shroeder's early PMLA article "Stephen Crane Embattled." But noting the response to his attack on Crane, we find that most replies recognize little or no merit in his argument, implying that no serious difficulties exist in the conception and execution of The Red Badge of Courage.

In their great concern with explication critics have been loath to point out those things in Crane's fiction which even his most sympathetic readers are likely during the privacy of reading to find embarrassing, irritating, or both. Often we allow our desire to define content and structure in an author's fiction to obscure his limitations.

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