Barth, John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Barth, John

John Barth (bärth), 1930–, American writer, b. Cambridge, Md. He attended Johns Hopkins (B.A. 1951, M.A. 1952), and, beginning in 1973, taught writing at its graduate school for nearly 20 years. Barth's postmodern novels—experimental, comic, self-referential, and often sprawling—reflect his anger and despair at a world he finds ludicrous and meaningless. While his early books were extravagantly praised, many critics have viewed his later work as verbose and bordering on incomprehensibility. Barth has a particular gift for parody. One of his best-known novels, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), is set in 17th-century Maryland and deftly satirizes historical novels. His other fiction includes The Floating Opera (1956), The End of the Road (1958), Giles Goat-Boy (1966), Chimera (1972), Letters (1979), Sabbatical (1982), Once upon a Time (1994), Coming Soon!!! (2001), and the novellas of Where Three Roads Meet (2005). His four volumes of short fiction—the postmodern Lost in the Funhouse (1968), the love stories of On with the Story (1996), the stories and commentary in the aftermath of 9/11 in The Book of Ten Nights and a Night (2004), and the end-of-life stories of The Development (2008)—are also in his Collected Stories (2015).

See studies by C. B. Harris (1983) and E. P. Walkiewicz (1986).

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