Joyce Carol Oates
Lecture Date: 5-21-1991
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Interview: Author Joyce Carol Oates is introduced by John Eadie and Leonora Smith. Oates lectures on the life of a writer as well as her life in Michigan. She relates how moving from the country to Detroit changed her both as a person and as a writer and how her environment affected her literature. Oates also describes the relationship between the city and some of her stories and then addresses what she deems the “mystery” of writing and of words. Oates expounds on the power of language which makes reality more satisfying by making it into legend. The author discusses the mystery and excitement of being a writer. She explains several theories on the genesis of art. One is that the root of creativity is playfulness and another is rebellion. Many great authors, such as Hemingway, defined themselves by their rebellion. As a woman author writing before women's liberation, Oates was forced to rebel in order to produce truly creative works. Oates states that a third source of creativity is the desire to memorialize the past. Writing as a completion of the soul is one last theory of creativity that Oates presents. She believes that there is a pattern to writing that can be seen best at the end of the career. The author returns to the subject of imagination and playfulness in regards to creativity and skims over several aspects of writing and being a writer. Oates relates an anecdote about a gathering of intellectuals that she was invited to by the Gorbachevs. She goes on to discuss her personal life and its relation to her writing. Oates addresses the issues of violence in her writing and feminism. She finishes the lecture by explaining her work with Martin Scorsese on a film adapted from one of her books.
Biography: Joyce Carol Oates (1938- ) is an American author who taught English at the University of Detroit and the University of Windsor, Ontario and has been affiliated with Princeton University since 1978. Oates writes about contemporary American life, which she sees as often defined by violence. She is particularly concerned with the connection between violence and love. Her characters are mainly ordinary, inarticulate people who sublimate the terrible things that happen to them. An extraordinarily prolific writer, Oates has published dozens of novels and numerous short stories, including Cybele (1979), Solstice (1985), and Heat (1991).