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An Analysis of Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

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An Analysis of Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been


Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most productive writers of our time. Between 1971-95, Oates published twenty-five novels, eighteen short story compilations, three collections of novellas, five volumes of poetry, six editions of plays, eight books of essays, and countless more umcollected works (Kellman 487). As the format for her writing varies, so does her subject matter. Her creations cover a wide range of genres, but Oates' main fascination is contemporary America with its "colliding social and economic forces, its philosophical contradictions, its wayward, often violent energies" (Johnson 8). Oates' works, and somethimes even Oates herself, have been subject to responses ranging from extreme praise to harsh criticism from the literary community. Oates has won many significant literary awards and has even been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature but has also received her share of bad press. Oates' work has time and time again been criticized for being too violent, too bizarre, degrading to women, and "the exact antithesis to the feminist movement" (gtd. in Wesley par. 32). I believe the opposite is true.

Oates herself has been quoted as saying that her subject matter is "today's culture," and that all she is trying to do is to bring the ills of our cuture "to a place where it can be examined" (Johnson 10). Some of her stories are purely fictional, but many stories seem to be ripped from the headlines. Zombie, a 1995 novel, is loosely based on the Jeffrey Dahmer serial killings (Seltzer 288). The highly acclaimed short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" draws its inspiration from the case of an Arizona serial killer,...


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...arterly Review 38 (1999): 487-495. Literature Online. 13 July 2002 .

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Selected Early Stories. Princeton, NJ: Ontario Review Press, 1993.

Seltzer, Mark. Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998.

Smooth Talk. Dir. Joyce Chopra. Perf. Treat Williams, Laura Dern, Mary Kay Place, Elizabeth Berridge, and Levon Helm. Vestron Video, 1986.

Southner, Randy. "Celestial Timepiece: A Joyce Carol Oates Homepage." 2002. University of San Francisco. 12 July 2002 .

Wagner, Linda W. Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1979.

Wesley, Marilyn C. "Reverence, Rape, Resistance: Joyce Carol Oates and Feminist Film Theory." Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 32.3 (1999): 75-85. Literature Online. 13 July 2002 .


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