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Philip’s Complaints—Four Novels by Philip Roth
Four Mondays, March 4, 11, 18, and 25, 12:00–1:30 P.M. Northern Trust Bank, Third-Floor Conference Room, 2701 Kirby Drive, 77098.
Portnoy’s Complaint was first received as scandalously frank, purportedly anti-Semitic, and laugh-out-loud funny. Philip Roth followed it up with The Ghost Writer, a serious inquiry into the nature of writing and the responsibility of the Jewish writer to the Jewish community. In one way or another, these concerns inform almost all his other novels and come to a kind of climax in American Pastoral, which also addresses the violent resistance to the Vietnam War. Mr. Roth’s own favorite was Sabbath’s Theater, a very powerful novel that many readers consider his best. It is a profound character study of Mickey Sabbath, a man who is angry, violent, and in many ways reprehensible, but also a character as memorable as Portnoy.
Philip Roth won all the literary prizes America has to offer and, toward the end of his life, was thought of as a possible Nobel Prize laureate. In reading these four books, we will get a sense of his true importance and growth, and the reasons he was so highly valued. We will discuss these novels in the order they are mentioned above.
Terrence Doody received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1970 and joined the faculty of Rice University where he is professor emeritus in the department of English. He teaches courses in modernism, the novel, and contemporary literature. His publications include Confession and Community in the Novel (Louisiana State University Press, 1980) and Among Other Things: A Description of the Novel (LSU Press, 1998) as well as recent essays on Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, architectural theory, and the poets Eavan Boland and Robert Hass. He is the recipient of grants from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and is an eight-time winner of a George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching. In 1997 he was also voted the Outstanding Associate of Lovett College, and he was the Allison Sarofim Distinguished Teaching Professor for 2002–2003.