Academic journal article Style

Sarah Graham. J.D. Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye

Academic journal article Style

Sarah Graham. J.D. Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye

Article excerpt

Sarah Graham. J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Routledge Guides to Literature, 2007, 128 pp. $14.95 paper.

If writing literary scholarship especially--but far from exclusively--on contemporary authors can be viewed as investing in futures, it might have been wise, from the 1960s on, to sell J. D. Salinger short. Regardless of one's regard for his work, Salinger's regard for the marketplace (it was a form of prostitution) has made intellectual investment in him risky business. And despite Sarah Graham's claim, in J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, that the criticism on The Catcher in the Rye has been extensive, for a book so widely read and taught, so socially and stylistically influential, the body of criticism is not huge, a point suggested by Graham's careful, detailed summary of critical reception over the last half century.

The Catcher in the Rye made its initial impact during the post-WWII moment when the techniques of verisimilitude and the themes of modernism, focused through the lens of psychological rather than social realism, consolidated in the American academy around New Critical analyses of structures, symbols, and motifs. In the case of The Catcher in the Rye, the reference point for such analyses was Huckleberry Finn, lodged in what was identified as the transcendent--essentially American--qualities of both novels. The next stage of criticism reflected challenges to the academic lingua franca, informed by Marxist and psychoanalytic approaches that valorized Caulfield as social critic or diminished him as psychically damaged. More recent scholarship, reflecting the embrace of cultural criticism, read the novel as symptomatic of the cultural conditions and discursive practices historically specific to its moment of production.

The five new essays assembled in this volume are, for the most part, consistent with this post- 1980s trend. Sally Robinson does an important job of framing the critical history surrounding Caulfiled' s incipient "manhood" within the shift, in the 1950s, from a martial understanding of masculinity, as defined by action and individualism, to a consumerist understanding that aligns masculine behavior with the traditionally "feminine" traits of passivity and conformity. …

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