Philip Roth

Philip Roth, 1933–, American author, b. Newark, N.J., grad. Univ. of Chicago (M.A., 1955). His writings, noted for their irony and themes of identity, rebellion, and sexuality, deal largely with middle-class Jewish-American life. Roth gained his initial literary reputation with the short-story collection Good-bye Columbus (1959). Portnoy's Complaint (1969), a psychiatrist-couch monologue by a young, insecure, and hilariously articulate Jewish man who describes his life, notably his possessive mother, his erotic fascination with blonde Gentile girls, and his masturbatory exploits, was Roth's break-out, best-selling novel and is still probably his most famous book. It has been widely acclaimed a comic masterpiece. His many other works include the novels The Breast (1972), The Great American Novel (1973), My Life as a Man (1974), The Ghost Writer (1979) Zuckerman Unbound (1981), Zuckerman Bound (1985), The Counterlife (1987), The Facts (1988), Operation Shylock (1993), the trilogy American Pastoral (1997; Pulitzer Prize), I Married a Communist (1998), and The Human Stain (2000), The Plot against America (2004), Indignation (2008), The Humbling (2009), and Nemesis (2010).

His flood of late novels, which frequently portray American life in the last decades of the 20th cent. with a mixture of comedy and savagery, have often been imaginative amalgams of autobiography and fiction, sometimes with doppelgänger Nathan Zuckerman standing in for the author or with "Philip Roth" appearing as a character or as the narrator. Roth also has written a nonfiction account of his father's death, Patrimony: A True Story (1991). Several of his most recent fictional works, notably The Human Stain,The Dying Animal (2001), Everyman (2006), Exit Ghost (2007), in which the central character is an elderly, mentally and sexually diminished Nathan Zuckerman, and The Humbling (2009), treat a variety of end-of-life themes—remembrance and regret, the last sparks of sexual desire, the ills and sorrows of the failing body and mind, and mortality itself. In 2011 Roth was awarded the Man Booker International Prize.

See his The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (1988, repr. 1997) and his essays, Reading Myself and Others (1985); G. J. Searles, ed., Conversations with Philip Roth (1992); studies by S. Pinsker (1975), A. Z. Milbauer and D. G. Watson, ed. (1988), J. L. Halio (1992), A. Cooper (1996), S. Milowitz (2000), M. Shechner (2003), D. Shostak (2004), G. Welsch (2005), J. L. Halio and B. Siegel, ed. (2005), D. P. Royal, ed. (2005), and C. R. Pierpont (2013).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Philip Roth: Selected full-text books and articles

Philip Roth By Harold Bloom Chelsea House, 1986
Librarian's tip: This is a book of literary criticism
The Fiction of Philip Roth and John Updike By George J. Searles Southern Illinois University Press, 1985
In History's Grip: Philip Roth's Newark Trilogy By Michael Kimmage Stanford University Press, 2012
Secrecy and Self-Invention: Philip Roth's Postmodern Identity in the Human Stain By Neelakantan, G International Fiction Review, Vol. 34, No. 1-2, January 2007
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Schlemiel as Metaphor: Studies in Yiddish and American Jewish Fiction By Sanford Pinsker Southern Illinois University Press, 1991 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Philip Roth: The Schlemiel as Fictional Biographer"
Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation By Michael Rothberg University of Minnesota Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Reading Jewish: Philip Roth, Art Spiegelman, and Holocaust Postmemory"
Facing Black and Jew: Literature as Public Space in Twentieth-Century America By Adam Zachary Newton Cambridge University Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "'Words Generally Spoil Things' and 'Giving a Man Final Say': Facing History in David Bradley and Philip Roth"
A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory By Norman Ravvin McGill-Queens University Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Philip Roth's Literary Ghost: Rereading Anne Frank"
Authors By Karl Miller Clarendon Press, 1989
Librarian's tip: Chap. XI "Polymorphous Roth"
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