Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Faith and `Fundamental Anxiety' in John Updike's The Maple Stories

Department

English

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range

2010-2011

Abstract

Faith and "Fundamental Anxiety" in John Updike's The Maple Stories In Self-Consciousness, John Updike writes that "when you move toward Christianity it disappear[s], as fog solidly opaque in the distance thins to transparency when you walk into it" (230). Nevertheless, undeterred by the disappearance, Updike decided that, in terms of Christianity, he "would believe" (230). In The Maple Stories his separation from Joan to join his life to that of his waiting mistress indicates a similar choice with regard to eros. Updike seems to see something shared in the ineffable nature of eros and Christian faith, but he seemingly chooses to believe in both. Corroborating this notion of the ineffable among Updike's "three great secret things: sex, religion, and art," Jeffrey Eugenides mentions as he introduces a recent anthology of love stories, My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead (2008), that "[a] love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims [ . . . ] aren't love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart" (xi) on eros thinning in the fog. In these stories the ineffable becomes the quotidian. They let us access the Maples' domesticity, relational dynamics, and systems of valuing, and they demonstrate that not much about marriage reliably resembles eros because domesticity by its very nature smacks of possession, not yearning. The seventeen pieces I explicate provide Updike's take on the contemporary American middle-class marital muddle.

Conference Name

Updike in Pennsylvania: The First Biennial John Updike Society Conference

Conference Location

Reading, PA



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