Front cover image for Frederick Buechner : an introduction

Frederick Buechner : an introduction

American writer Frederick Buechner has published, since 1950, eleven novels and ten major works of non-fiction. The critical reception of Buechner's work has been generally problematic; his work has been undervalued, at least in part, because of his emerging preoccupation with theological issues. The tendency among critics has been to divide Buechner's work into pre-Christian and post-Christian phases. This study will attempt to avoid such diminishment of the Buechner corpus by elucidated the thread of religious preoccupation running through all of Buechner's writing. A detailed introduction to the early novels is particularly important as they illustrate Buechner's developing voice. Chapter one underscores Buechner's consonance with the themes of modernism but suggests that Buechner's first novel, A Long Day's Dying, reveals the bewilderments of its young author. Questions as to the consequences of evil and the logic of cynicism carry into the second novel, The Seasons' Difference, the subject of chapter two. The visionary Peter Cowley of the second novel becomes Buechner's vehicle to explore ambiguous questions of faith and to search for something beyond despair. The first two novels display the formative stages of religious faith without softening the shrill noises of modern life. Chapter three focuses on the third novel, The Return of Ansel Gibbs, a pivotal work growing out of Buechner's seminary tenure, conversion, marriage, and ordination. With the transformation of Ansel Gibbs, Buechner affirms emerging faith. Chapter four treats Buechner's fourth novel, The Final Beast, the central work in the canon. The novel connects Buechner's early work to his work of more recent years and offers a clear parallel to Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, demonstrating Buechner's theory of embodying faith in fiction. Finally, chapter five offers an overview of the remaining fiction: The Entrance to Porlock, The Book of Bebb, and Godric. Despite great variance in style and subject matter, these works exemplify Buechner's consistent exploration of the possible affirmations growing from despair--the theme that flows through all of his writing. Taken together, the fiction of Frederick Buechner earns him a place with the important writers of his generation
Thesis, Dissertation, English, 1987
University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Mo., 1987
University of Missouri-Columbia