Sherwood Anderson Bibliography Of Criticism

Sherwood Anderson, (born September 13, 1876, Camden, Ohio, U.S.—died March 8, 1941, Colon, Panama), author who strongly influenced American writing between World Wars I and II, particularly the technique of the short story. His writing had an impact on such notable writers as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, both of whom owe the first publication of their books to his efforts. His prose style, based on everyday speech and derived from the experimental writing of Gertrude Stein, was markedly influential on the early Hemingway—who parodied it cruelly in Torrents of Spring (1926) to make a clean break and become his own man.

One of seven children of a day labourer, Anderson attended school intermittently as a youth in Clyde, Ohio, and worked as a newsboy, house painter, farmhand, and racetrack helper. After a year at Wittenberg Academy, a preparatory school in Springfield, Ohio, he worked as an advertising writer in Chicago until 1906, when he went back to Ohio and for the next six years sought—without success—to prosper as a businessman while writing fiction in his spare time. A paint manufacturer in Elyria, Ohio, he left his office abruptly one day in 1912 and wandered off, turning up four days later in Cleveland, disheveled and mentally distraught. He later said he staged this episode to get away from the business world and devote himself to literature.

Anderson went back to his advertising job in Chicago and remained there until he began to earn enough from his published work to quit. Encouraged by Theodore Dreiser, Floyd Dell, Carl Sandburg, and Ben Hecht—leaders of the Chicago literary movement—he began to contribute experimental verse and short fiction to The Little Review, The Masses, the Seven Arts, and Poetry. Dell and Dreiser arranged the publication of his first two novels, Windy McPherson’s Son (1916; rev. 1921) and Marching Men (1917), both written while he was still a manufacturer. Winesburg, Ohio (1919) was his first mature book and made his reputation as an author. Its interrelated short sketches and tales are told by a newspaper reporter-narrator who is as emotionally stunted in some ways as the people he describes. His novels include Many Marriages (1923), which stresses the need for sexual fulfillment; Dark Laughter (1925), which values the “primitive” over the civilized; and Beyond Desire (1932), a novel of Southern textile mill labour struggles.

His best work is generally thought to be in his short stories, collected in Winesburg, Ohio, The Triumph of the Egg (1921), Horses and Men (1923), and Death in the Woods (1933). Also valued are the autobiographical sketches A Story Teller’s Story (1924), Tar: A Midwest Childhood (1926), and the posthumous Memoirs (1942; critical edition 1969). A selection of his Letters appeared in 1953.

The studies listed here vary in scope and depth as well as in their assessment of Anderson. Chase 1927 most directly reflects the author’s diminishing reputation after Winesburg, and it is primarily useful for specialists focusing on Anderson’s critical reception. Howe 1966 (originally published in 1951) is the first truly comprehensive study, and it remains a helpful source for more informed literary scholars. Weber 1964 and Taylor 1977 are more suited for a general audience, but they both are brief and limited in textual analysis; of the shorter studies, Burbank 1964 and Bassett 2006 have a finer balance of concision and critical engagement with the texts. Anderson 1967 is an authoritative study for modern Anderson scholars, whereas Papinchak 1992 offers the best treatment of Anderson’s short-story technique for specialists and nonspecialists alike.

  • Anderson, David D. Sherwood Anderson: An Introduction and Interpretation. American Authors and Critics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

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    Reevaluation of Anderson as a storyteller, novelist, and social critic, both candid in addressing his literary shortcomings and ambitious in attempting to restore him as a representative voice in the cultural history of modern America. A key contribution to the resurgence of Anderson criticism over the next decade.

  • Bassett, John E. Sherwood Anderson: An American Career. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2006.

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    Short but comprehensive assessment of Anderson’s writings, opening with a biographical sketch and followed by critical treatment of the novels, poetry, short fiction, autobiographies, and nonfiction. Recapitulates scholarly consensus on Anderson’s flaws as a novelist, while tracing the most significant themes that recur throughout the work as a whole.

  • Burbank, Rex J. Sherwood Anderson. TUSAS 65. New York: Twayne, 1964.

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    Selective overview of Anderson’s work that provides a balanced perspective of its characteristic strengths and weaknesses; critical of the author’s novelistic forays into primitivism and sexual mysticism, while still establishing the author’s historical importance as a bridge between late-19th- and early-20th-century literary traditions.

  • Chase, Cleveland B. Sherwood Anderson. Modern American Writers 7. New York: Robert M. McBride, 1927.

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    Early commentary on the author’s life and writings to date, distinctive mainly for its negative judgments. Maintains that Anderson typically lapses into confusion or sentimentality when addressing the harsher realities of modern life, and that his uneven talent is suited mainly to Winesburg and the short story form. Republished as recently as 1978 (Norwood, PA: Norwood).

  • Howe, Irving. Sherwood Anderson. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1966.

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    First published in 1951; reissued as recently as 1978. Overview of Anderson’s life and literary career, generally positive and insightful in its treatment of Winesburg and selected later stories but otherwise tepid in its judgment of Anderson’s novels, poetry, and nonfiction. Contributed most significantly to Anderson’s mid-20th-century reputation as a “minor” writer.

  • Papinchak, Robert A. Sherwood Anderson: A Study of the Short Fiction. Twayne’s Studies in Short Fiction 33. New York: Twayne, 1992.

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    Lucid study organized in three parts: “The Short Fiction,” which examines Anderson’s earliest short fiction and Winesburg, Ohio; “The Writer,” which offers excerpts from Anderson’s letters, essays, and memoirs that discuss the storyteller’s craft; and “The Critics,” which includes essays from five critics on Anderson’s accomplishments in the form.

  • Taylor, Welford D. F. Sherwood Anderson. Modern Literature Monographs. New York: Ungar, 1977.

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    Selective account of Anderson’s life and writings, focusing more on the short fiction and late journalism; of the novels, only Poor White and Kit Brandon receive modest treatment, and Taylor often relies heavily on summary in the book as a whole.

  • Weber, Brom. Sherwood Anderson. University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers 43. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964.

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    Short (forty-five-page) monograph from the University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers series, with selective commentary on the major phases of Anderson’s life, the strengths and shortcomings of his major novels and short-story collections, and his diminished critical reputation after the mid-1920s.

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