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A.S. Byatt is considered by many to be one of the greatest living British fiction writers. Born in 1936, she came of age during the 1950s, a period of social and cultural transition in the Western world. After working for many years as a professor and literary critic, Byatt devoted herself to her writing full time in 1983. She has published eight novels, several books of short stories and novellas, and several works of criticism, as well as numerous introductions to works by other writers. Her work is often considered a hybrid of realism and postmodernism; those readers who dislike it usually criticize it for being too dense, allusive, and intellectual.
For many years, Byatt worked largely in the shadow of her younger sister, the successful novelist Margaret Drabble. This changed somewhat when she won the Booker Prize and other awards for her 1990 novel, Possession: A Romance (which was made into a film in 2002). She was also appointed a CBE in 1990. In recent years, the critical attention paid to Byatt has increased, with several monographs and numerous scholarly articles being published. Byatt herself has also published some writing in which she discusses both her own work and the work of other writers she admires.
This pathfinder was created with the general adult reader in mind. (Most of Byatt’s work—Possession may be an exception—is too difficult even for high school students.) Many of the resources described give a brief outline of Byatt’s life, but the vast majority provide a critical assessment of some number of her fictional works. Given the density and difficulty of the novels in particular, even highly intelligent and experienced readers—e.g., graduate students or professors—will find some background reading useful. The works cited here may be found at the University of North Carolina’s Davis Library, at the R.B. House Undergraduate Library’s Media Resources Center, or as electronic resources through the UNC Library System’s Article Databases & More page.
This pathfinder was created by Sarah Fass for INLS 111, Fall 2004