John Gardner (John Champlin Gardner, Jr.), 1933–82, American writer, b. Batavia, N.Y. He was a teacher, lecturer, and prolific writer of fiction, children's books, poetry, radio plays, and scholarly medieval studies. He studied at Washington Univ., St. Louis (grad. 1955) and Iowa State Univ. (M.A., 1956; Ph.D., 1958) and taught creative writing and medieval literature at a number of American colleges. His novels include Resurrection (1966), The Wreckage of Agathon (1970), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), Nickel Mountain (1973), October Light (1976), and Freddie's Book (1980). Among his volumes of short stories are The King's Indian (1974) and The Art of Living (1981).
Frequently exploring philosophical questions, his novels sometimes derive from literary sources. Gardner first gained notice with Grendel (1971), which recasts the story of Beowulf with the monster as the protagonist. In his controversial work of criticism, On Moral Fiction (1978), Gardner defends the importance of maintaining a high moral purpose in fiction and criticizes his contemporaries for indulging in cleverness at the expense of the traditional strengths of the novel. He also wrote On Becoming a Novelist (1983) and The Art of Fiction (1984). Many of his critical essays were collected in On Writers and Writing (1994).
See biography by B. Silesky (2004); studies by D. Cowart (1983) and L. Butts (1988).