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24 - Kurt Vonnegut

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

At the heart of Kurt Vonnegut’s (1922–2007) career as a novelist rests an idealism dressed up in the playful trappings of a rebellious teenager who thumbs his nose at the establishment for supremely moral reasons. A countercultural figure who gained literary celebrity in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Vonnegut is best characterized as an American trickster whose values are an ad hoc mixture of the public school education he received in the Midwest during the Great Depression, his own family’s religious skepticism, and his experiences as a prisoner of war who survived the firebombing of Dresden, Germany.

His ascendancy as a novelist parallels the rise of postmodern fiction in America as practiced by such luminaries as Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, Richard Brautigan, and John Barth. But Vonnegut’s own work, while highlighting its constructed nature through a range of metafictional techniques and its adamant assertion that there is no essential center of reference, nonetheless argues for a consistent morality that might best be called postmodern humanism. Vonnegut’s fiction should be seen as an antecedent for the work of such contemporary novelists as David Foster Wallace, Sherman Alexie, and Dave Eggers, and his legacy continues to influence both public and literary spheres.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Boon, Kevin Alexander (ed.), At Millennium’s End: New Essays on the Work of Kurt Vonnegut, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2001.
Davis, Todd, Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade, or How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2006.Google Scholar
Klinkowitz, Jerome, Vonnegut in Fact: The Public Spokesmanship of Personal Fiction, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1998.Google Scholar
Merrill, Robert (ed.), Critical Essays on Kurt Vonnegut, Boston, Mass., G. K. Hall, 1990.
Mustazza, Leonard (ed.), The Critical Response to Kurt Vonnegut, Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press, 1994.
Rackstraw, Loree, Love as Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him, New York, Da Capo Press, 2009.Google Scholar
Reed, Peter J. and Leeds, Marc (eds.), The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays, Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press, 1996.
Shields, Charles J., And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, New York, Henry Holt, 2011.Google Scholar
Simmons, David (ed.), New Critical Essays on Kurt Vonnegut, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.CrossRef
Allen, William Rodney (ed.), Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1988)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, Kurt, Slaughterhouse-Five (New York, Dell, 1969)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , Mother Night (New York, Dell, 1966)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (New York, Dell, 1965)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , Slapstick (New York, Delacorte, 1976)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , Breakfast of Champions (New York, Dell, 1973)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (New York, Seven Stories Press, 1999)Google Scholar
Vonnegut, , Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons (New York, Dell, 1976)Google Scholar

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  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.025
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  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.025
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.025
Available formats
×