Dr. John Hughes is Professor of English at Valencia Community College. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and his Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. Winner of the Ilse and Hans Juergensen Poetry Contest and the Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry prize, Hughes has published poems and stories in several literary magazines. He has also published literary criticism and reviews in scholarly journals.
2005 0-7734-6177-9 Critics have generally categorized Frederick Barthelme as a minimalist, meaning for some a writer who caught the tide of a reaction to the metafiction that dominated literary production in the sixties and much of the seventies, and for others a writer who had nothing to say beyond the surface of the prose. The minimalism that is the hallmark of Barthelme’s style, in fact, invites a reading of the stories and novels beyond just the accuracy of description, the precision of imagery, and the economy of language. Barthelme is best read as a contemporary moralist, not of the prescriptive type, but of the descriptive type. Not interrogating and establishing “codes” of behavior by which people might live (as Hemingway did), Barthelme demonstrates how people do live in the postmodern age, an age which no longer enjoys a grand narrative or a religious underpinning. Particularly, he shows how people negotiate sexual relationships and marriage following the sexual revolution of the sixties and the women’s movement of the seventies. The purpose of this study is to review the criticism surrounding Barthelme’s fiction and to engage in a closer reading of Barthelme’s texts in order to see beyond the highly engaging surface of the prose to the interrogation of contemporary morality in which Barthelme is engaged.