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Barth, John(bärth), 1930–, American writer, b. Cambridge, Md. He attended Johns Hopkins (B.A. 1951, M.A. 1952), and, beginning in 1973, taught writing at its graduate school for nearly 20 years. Barth's postmodern novels—experimental, comic, self-referential, and often sprawling—reflect his anger and despair at a world he finds ludicrous and meaningless. While his early books were extravagantly praised, many critics have viewed his later work as verbose and bordering on incomprehensibility. Barth has a particular gift for parody. One of his best-known novels, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), is set in 17th-century Maryland and deftly satirizes historical novels. His other fiction includes The Floating Opera (1956), The End of the Road (1958), Giles Goat-Boy (1966), Chimera (1972), Letters (1979), Sabbatical (1982), Once upon a Time (1994), Coming Soon!!! (2001), and the novellas of Where Three Roads Meet (2005). His four volumes of short fiction—the postmodern Lost in the Funhouse (1968), the love stories of On with the Story (1996), the stories and commentary in the aftermath of 9/11 in The Book of Ten Nights and a Night (2004), and the end-of-life stories of The Development (2008)—are also in his Collected Stories (2015).
See studies by C. B. Harris (1983) and E. P. Walkiewicz (1986).
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Barth, John (Simmons)(1930– ) writer, educator; born in Cambridge, Md. He graduated from Johns Hopkins, where, during a long academic career, he joined the English faculty (1973). His novels, some set on Maryland's Eastern Shore, were distinctive for their formal ingenuity and an existential questioning bordering on nihilism. They include The End of the Road (1958), Chimera (1972, National Book Award), and Tidewater Tales (1988). A major exception was his second novel, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), a long, playful parody written in the style of an 18th century novel.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.