Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates ’60, H’00 is one of America’s most prolific and versatile writers. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She has also penned volumes of poetry, plays, innumerable essays and book reviews, and nonfiction works on literary subjects ranging from the poetry of Emily Dickinson to studies of the Gothic and horror genres.
Growing up in upstate New York, Oates displayed a precocious interest in books and writing. While attending Syracuse University on scholarship, she won the “college short story” contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. Oates graduated in 1960 as class valedictorian with a degree in English from the College of Arts and Sciences and, following graduate school, taught at the University of Detroit, where she witnessed the social turmoil engulfing America’s cities in the 1960s. These violent realities influenced much of her early fiction, including her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, published when she was just 28.
In the following decade, Oates published new books at the extraordinary rate of two or three per year while teaching full time at the University of Windsor. In the early 1980s, she surprised critics and readers with a series of novels, beginning with Bellefleur, in which she used the conventions of Gothic fiction to reimagine stretches of American history. Just as suddenly, she returned to her realistic style with a series of ambitious family chronicles, including You Must Remember This, that creates a fictional world that mirrors the ambiguity and real-world experience of our time.
Oates is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the 2004 Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the O’Henry Prize for Continued Achievement in the Short Story. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1999, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for the third time. In 2009, she received Syracuse University's George Arents Award for excellence in letters.
Today, Oates continues to live and write in Princeton, New Jersey, where she is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.