Gardner, John

Gardner, John

(John Champlin Gardner, Jr.), 1933–82, American writer, b. Batavia, N.Y. He was a teacher, lecturer, and prolific writer of fiction, children's books, poetry, radio plays, and scholarly medieval studies. He studied at Washington Univ., St. Louis (grad. 1955) and Iowa State Univ. (M.A., 1956; Ph.D., 1958) and taught creative writing and medieval literature at a number of American colleges. His novels include Resurrection (1966), The Wreckage of Agathon (1970), The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), Nickel Mountain (1973), October Light (1976), and Freddie's Book (1980). Among his volumes of short stories are The King's Indian (1974) and The Art of Living (1981).

Frequently exploring philosophical questions, his novels sometimes derive from literary sources. Gardner first gained notice with Grendel (1971), which recasts the story of BeowulfBeowulf
, oldest English epic, probably composed in the early 8th cent. by an Anglian bard in the vicinity of Northumbria. It survives in only one manuscript, written c.A.D. 1000 by two scribes and preserved in the British Library in the collection of Sir Robert Cotton.
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 with the monster as the protagonist. In his controversial work of criticism, On Moral Fiction (1978), Gardner defends the importance of maintaining a high moral purpose in fiction and criticizes his contemporaries for indulging in cleverness at the expense of the traditional strengths of the novel. He also wrote On Becoming a Novelist (1983) and The Art of Fiction (1984). Many of his critical essays were collected in On Writers and Writing (1994).


See biography by B. Silesky (2004); studies by D. Cowart (1983) and L. Butts (1988).

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Gardner, John (Champlin, Jr.)

(1933–82) writer, educator; born in Batavia, N.Y. He earned a Ph.D. at Iowa State University and taught at several institutions, including the State University of New York: Binghamton (1978–82). In addition to scholarly works—chiefly medieval translations and editions—he wrote poetry, criticism, and fiction, including Grendel (1971), October Light (1976, National Book Critics Circle Award) and Mickelsson's Ghosts (1982). He died in a motorcycle accident.

Gardner, John (William)

(1912–  ) educator, social activist; born in Los Angeles. Gardner exerted a powerful innovative influence on math teaching, civil rights, and children's television as president of the Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1955–65) and as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (1965–69). He founded the citizens' lobby Common Cause and the volunteer coalition Independent Sector.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.