John Updike: the Dialectical Vision--the Influence of Kierkegaard and Barth

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Stanley R. Hopper


John Updike, Karl Barth, Soren Kierkegaard, American novelists

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America


This thesis addresses the critical problem proper to understanding and appreciating the scope, variety, and sheer quantity of the work of John Updike up to and including 1972. We contend the writer’s desire “to transcribe middleness” is rooted in a dialectical vision of man and his world that is religiously informed and is of a special kind. We also discover that this concern for middleness and its basis, the dialectical vision, is often shaped and abetted by the specific influence of the religious visions of the “dialectical” theologians, Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard. This thesis contends that Updike’s interest in Barth and Kierkegaard is not peripheral but is crucial to an understanding and appreciation of his writing.


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