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Author Study: Joyce Carol Oates Curated by Isabel Cheng '18

The life, work, and analysis of Joyce Carol Oates


Political and Historical

"We would hope not to be reducible to a political position, still less a political party… but we write with the expectation that our work will illuminate areas of the world that may be radically different from our readers’ experience, and that this is a good thing."

While Oates does not always intend to be "political" that seems impossible during a time when America is so divisive. Since most of her works take place in contemporary America, her works often have political relevance as she often contrasts between religious and secular, liberal and conservative, urban and rural. For example, her most recent novel A Book Of American Martyrs is about Luther Dunphy "soldier of God" who murders an abortion doctor. While she wrote the novel before the 2016 presidential election, she still encapsulates the current polarization in America. In her novel, she refuses to dehumanize anyone and offers several viewpoints.

One historian once wrote "a future archeologist equipped with only her oeuvre could easily piece together the whole of postwar America."