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Understanding Philip Roth

Matthew A. Shipe

Published: Apr 14 2022


Published: Apr 14 2022


Published: Apr 14 2022

OA Ebook
Published: Apr 14 2022


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A panoramic and accessible guide to one of the most celebrated—and controversial—authors of the twentieth century

Philip Roth was one of the most prominent, controversial, and prolific American writers of his generation. By the time of his death in 2018, he had won the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, and three PEN/Faulkner Awards. In Understanding Philip Roth, Matthew A. Shipe provides a brief biographical sketch followed by an illuminating and accessible reading of Roth's novels, illustrating how the writer constructed one of the richest bodies of work in American letters, capturing the absurdities, contradictions, and turmoil that shaped the United States in the six decades following the Second World War.

Questions of Jewish American identity, the irrationality of male sexual desire, the nature of the American experiment—these are a few of the central concerns that run throughout Roth's oeuvre, and across which his early and late novels speak to one another. Moreover, Shipe considers how Roth's fiction engaged with its historical moment, providing a broader context for understanding how his novels address the changes that transformed American culture during his lifetime.

Matthew A. Shipe is a senior lecturer and director of advanced writing in the English Department at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the editor, with Scott Dill, of Updike and Politics: New Considerations, and his work has appeared in Philip Roth Studies, The John Updike Review, and numerous edited collections. He is president of the Philip Roth Society and serves on the executive board of the John Updike Society.

"Never has there been a greater need for a brisk, open-minded exploration as to why Philip Roth matters. A first-rate survey of contemporary American literature's most astute and provocative novelist"—Steven J. Zipperstein, Stanford University

"Matthew Shipe's Understanding Philip Roth pushes our understanding of Roth further, incorporating Roth's personal history with American life and trauma through original and stylized fictions matched by formal inventiveness. With concision, example and detail, Shipe shows how and why it matters."—Ira Nadel, author of Philip Roth: A Counterlife

"Matthew Shipe has done something extraordinary, rendering the breadth of Philip Roth's oeuvre in a mere 120 pages. Even more astonishing, his critical study is both accessible and sophisticated; bright undergraduates, along with seasoned Roth scholars, will be engaged. This is an important and deft introduction to one of the major writers and voices of our time."—James Schiff, University of Cincinnati

"Matthew Shipe's Understanding Philip Roth engages the key word—'understanding'—in two distinctive ways: by helping readers understand the author and by revealing Roth's own understanding of such important contemporary issues as the role of the writer, the vagaries of history, the origins of the American project, and the pleasure and pain at the heart of the human condition."—Aimee Pozorski, Central Connecticut State University, co-executive editor of Philip Roth Studies

"Understanding Philip Roth arrives just in time and in usefully succinct form to help readers consider Roth and hisoeuvre as he/it appear within their many significant contexts"—Choice Reviews

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