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Stanley Elkin

A photo of Stanley Elkin taken from above.

Stanley Lawrence Elkin (May 11, 1930-May 31, 1995) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

Elkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Chicago. He did both his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1961 for his dissertation on William Faulkner. He was a member of the English faculty at Washington University in St. Louis from 1960 until his death and battled multiple sclerosis for most of his adult life.

During his career, Elkin published ten novels, two volumes of novellas, two books of short stories, a collection of essays, and one (unproduced) screenplay. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerism, popular culture, and male-female relationships, which are portrayed in innumerable darkly comic variations. Characters and especially prose style take full precedence over plot. Elkin’s language is extravagant and exuberant, baroque and flowery, taking fantastic flight from his characters’ endless patter.

Always bordering on the outlandish, Elkin’s work did not receive the popular reception given that of many of his peers. It was, however, greeted enthusiastically by critics and reviewers and brought him numerous literary awards, including a National Book Critics Circle Award for George Mills (1983) and Mrs. Ted Bliss (1995).

Modern Literature Collection's 50th Anniversary Digital Exhibit

See digitized materials from the Stanley Elkin Papers.

Stanley Elkin Playlist

Television clips about Elkin on the Modern Literature Collection’s YouTube playlist.


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