Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction

Imagination and Idealism in John Updike's Fiction

Michial Farmer

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Concentrating on the role of the imagination in Updike's works, this book shows him to be an original and powerful thinker and not the callow sensationalist that he is sometimes accused of being.

This book looks past the frequently discussed autobiographical nature of John Updike's fiction to consider the role in Updike's work of the most powerful and peculiar human faculty: the imagination. Michial Farmer argues that, while the imagination is for Updike a means of human survival and a necessary component of human flourishing, it also has a destructive, darker side, in which it shades into something like philosophical idealism. Here the mind constructs the world around it and then, unhelpfully, imposes this created world between itself and the "real world." In other words, Updike is not himself an idealist but sees idealism as a persistent temptation for the artistic imagination. Farmer builds his argument on the metaphysics of Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist thinker who has been largely neglected in discussions of Updike's aesthetics. The book demonstrates the degree to which Updike was an original and powerful thinker and not the callow sensationalist that he is sometimes accused of being.

Michial Farmer is Assistant Professor of English at Crown College, Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Hawthorne, Updike, and the Immoral Imagination
John Updike and the Existentialist Imagination
"Flight," "His Mother Inside Him," and "Ace in the Hole"
The Centaur
Of the Farm, "A Sandstone Farmhouse," and "The Cats"
"Man and Daughter in the Cold," "Giving Blood," "The Taste of Metal," and "Avec la Bebe-Sitter"
Marry Me
Couples and "The Hillies"
"The Football Factory," "Toward Evening," "Incest," "Still Life," "Lifeguard," "Bech Swings?" and "Three Illuminations in the Life of an American Author"
A Month of Sundays
Roger's Version
"Marching through Boston," "The Stare," "Report of Health," "Living with a Wife," and "Slippage"
The Witches of Eastwick
"In Football Season," "First Wives and Trolley Cars," "The Day of the Dying Rabbit," "Leaving Church Early," and "The Egg Race"
Memories of the Ford Administration
"The Dogwood Tree," "A Soft Spring Night in Shillington," and "On Being a Self Forever"
Conclusion: Updike, Realism, and Postmodernism


Throughout the book, Farmer brings Updike's short stories into the discussion, revealing the wide scope of his familiarity with Updike's vast oeuvre. An enjoyable, focused scholarly study, this is an excellent addition to the literature on Updike. Recommended. CHOICE

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