Authors: Wright Morris

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

My Uncle Dudley, 1942

The Man Who Was There, 1945

The Home Place, 1948

The World in the Attic, 1949

Man and Boy, 1951

The Works of Love, 1952

The Deep Sleep, 1953

The Huge Season, 1954

The Field of Vision, 1956

Love Among the Cannibals, 1957

Ceremony in Lone Tree, 1960

What a Way to Go, 1962

Cause for Wonder, 1963

One Day, 1965

In Orbit, 1967

Fire Sermon, 1971

War Games, 1972

A Life, 1973

The Fork River Space Project, 1977

Plains Song, for Female Voices, 1980

Short Fiction:

Green Grass, Blue Sky, White House, 1970

Here Is Einbaum, 1973

The Cat’s Meow, 1975

Real Losses, Imaginary Gains, 1976

Collected Stories, 1948-1986, 1986

Nonfiction:

The Inhabitants, 1946

The Territory Ahead, 1958

A Bill of Rites, a Bill of Wrongs, a Bill of Goods, 1968

God’s Country and My People, 1968

Love Affair: A Venetian Journal, 1972

About Fiction: Reverent Reflections on the Nature of Fiction with Irreverent Observations on Writers, Readers, and Other Abuses, 1975

Wright Morris: Structures and Artifacts, Photographs, 1933-1954, 1975

Earthly Delights, Unearthly Adornments: American Writers as Image-Makers, 1978

Will’s Boy, 1981

Photographs and Words, 1982

Picture America, 1982

Solo: An American Dreamer in Europe, 1933-1934, 1983

A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life, 1985

Time Pieces: Photographs, Writing, and Memory, 1989

Miscellaneous:

Wright Morris: A Reader, 1970

Biography

Wright Marion Morris was one of the most productive artists of his time, creating novels, stories, essays, criticism, and photographs that examine what it meant to be an American. Morris was born to William Henry and Grace Osborn Morris. His mother died six days after his birth, and Morris alternated between living with his father and with various relatives and friends. Will Morris went from one enterprise to another as he and his son moved from rural Nebraska to Omaha to Chicago. After briefly attending the City College of Chicago and Pacific Union College, Morris entered Pomona College in Claremont, California, in 1930. He left school in 1933 to spend a year traveling in Europe. Returning to California, he married Mary Ellen Finfrock, who taught music while Morris began his apprenticeship as a writer. He became interested in photography around this time and traveled across the United States, taking the pictures of buildings and artifacts later to be published in The Inhabitants.{$I[AN]9810000927}{$I[A]Morris, Wright}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Morris, Wright}{$I[tim]1910;Morris, Wright}

Wright Morris

(Jo Morris)

Morris’s early fiction is strongly autobiographical. My Uncle Dudley, his first novel, is based on an automobile journey he and his father took between Chicago and California in 1927. The Home Place and The World in the Attic were inspired by a visit to his native state after many years away. The Works of Love, his most personal novel, presents a man much like his father who pursues the American Dream and fails. The Huge Season reflects Morris’s experiences in college and Europe. These novels were generally well received by reviewers, but Morris’s works did not generate much excitement in the literary world until The Field of Vision won the National Book Award. His next novel, Love Among the Cannibals, became his first book to sell reasonably well. Morris continued this most productive period in his career with The Territory Ahead and Ceremony in Lone Tree, a sequel to The Field of Vision and perhaps his finest achievement.

With In Orbit, Morris began writing shorter, more impressionistic novels. This book and his next four novels are mood pieces, almost prose poems. Morris was criticized for his superficial and unsympathetic treatment of his female characters, but with Plains Song, for Female Voices, an unsentimental portrait of several generations of no-nonsense Nebraska women, he made a remarkable turnabout, creating what one critic called the best feminist novel by an American and winning the American Book Award. Morris’s interest in short narratives also led to his rediscovery of the short-story form, which he had neglected for most of his career. “Glimpse into Another Country,” a dreamlike treatment of an elderly California academic’s trip to Manhattan, is one of his best evocations of how the unexpected intrudes into the everyday. Another phase of Morris’s career was the publication of three memoirs between 1981 and 1985. This account of his life and career ends with his divorce and 1961 marriage to Josephine Kantor, shortly before he began teaching at San Francisco State University, from which he retired in 1975.

Morris’s fiction looks at the various aspects of the American character, especially as it is found in the Midwest and California. His themes are best exemplified by The Field of Vision and Ceremony in Lone Tree, which center on two reunions of childhood friends and the conflict between past, present, and future. Morris has been faulted for being nostalgic for the past, but he wrote with a strong sense of place, showing how Americans’ values are shaped by their environments. Morris invested his fiction with the rhythms and language of everyday American life, attempting to peel away the clichés of thought and action to find the essential human element. In 1986, he was honored with a Life Achievement award by the National Endowment for the Arts.

BibliographyBird, Roy K. Wright Morris: Memory and Imagination. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. An excellent appraisal of self-consciousness in Morris’s fiction. Bird moves from a discussion of Morris’s use of the past, namely the author’s ambivalence toward it, to an analysis of his linguistic technique. The final chapter contains a detailed analysis of The Fork River Space Project and Plains Song, for Female Voices. Contains a bibliography.Booth, Wayne C. “The Shaping of Prophecy: Craft and Idea in the Novels of Wright Morris.” American Scholar 31 (1962): 608-626. An excellent reappraisal of Morris’s work, focusing on Love Among the Cannibals, The Territory Ahead, and Ceremony in Lone Tree. Booth argues that Morris’s fiction is structured around a distinction between the everyday time-bound world of “reality” and a more timeless world of platonic reality.Crump, G. B. The Novels of Wright Morris: A Critical Interpretation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. In an effort to demonstrate Morris’s importance and clarify his contribution to modern fiction, Crump begins his study by addressing the major critical positions toward Morris’s writing, thus isolating significant features of the author’s work. Then he offers a new theoretical groundwork for criticizing the author’s fiction: a major dualism between the real and the ideal.Hamilton, James. “Wright Morris and the American Century.” Poets and Writers 25 (November/December, 1997): 23-31. In this extended interview, Morris discusses his decision to stop writing, his feelings about America, and his family.Hollander, John. “The Figure on the Page: Words and Images in Wright Morris’s The Home Place.” Yale Journal of Criticism 9 (Spring, 1996): 93-108. Discusses how Morris’s The Home Place mixes text and photographs; examines the work’s original way of presenting word and image in a mode that appears to mix ekphrasis and illustration.Howard, Leon. Wright Morris. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968. In this brief but insightful pamphlet surveying Morris’s novels, Howard asserts that no other American novelist has approached Morris in the variety and shaping of the raw materials. According to Howard, the novelist’s unique medium is the high seriousness of brilliant comedy in which the absurd is laid bare with neither bitterness nor hope.Knoll, Robert E., ed. Conversations with Wright Morris: Critical Views and Responses. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. This collection of lectures, interviews, critical essays, and photographs is one of the best sources of information about Morris and his work for the general reader. Much is illuminated in the discussions of Morris the novelist and Morris the photographer. Extensive bibliography.Madden, David. Wright Morris. New York: Twayne, 1964. This work assumes little or no prior knowledge of Morris’s writing. Its main purpose is to examine each of Morris’s novels (ending with Cause for Wonder) in quasi-chronological order so that the reader might see how the author’s themes and methods develop from novel to novel. Madden also discusses characterization and the influence of setting (the Midwest) on Morris’s work. Bibliography of primary and secondary sources.Morris, Wright. A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life. New York: Harper and Row, 1985. In this extremely informative and insightful autobiography, Morris sheds light not only on the formation of his character but also on his writing. Among other things, Morris discusses his faculty of image-making or what he calls time retrieval–a faculty that has served him well both as a photographer and as a writer.Trachtenberg, Alan. Distinctly American: The Photography of Wright Morris. London: Merrell, 2002. Analyzes Morris’s documentation of vernacular America in photography.Trachtenberg, Alan. “Wright Morris’s ‘Photo-Texts.’” Yale Journal of Criticism 9 (Spring, 1996): 109-119. Discusses Morris’s mixing of words and photographs in three works of fiction in which image and text stand beside each other in quite unexpected ways; shows how each work addresses similar questions about the role of images in the making of fiction.Wydeven, Joseph J. “Images and Icons: The Fiction and Photography of Wright Morris.” In Under the Sun: Myth and Realism in Western American Literature, edited by Barbara Howard Meldrum. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1985. This lengthy essay is the best examination of the relation between Morris’s photography and his fiction.Wydeven, Joseph J. Wright Morris Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1998. A scholar who has written often about Morris updates Madden’s study.
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