Cover image for Understanding May Sarton
Understanding May Sarton
Fulk, Mark K., 1968-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia : University of South Carolina Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
186 pages ; 19 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3537.A832 Z67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



UNDERSTANDING MAY SARTON introduces readers to the poetry, fiction; and memoirs of a pioneering feminist whose works, acclaimed but underappreciated during her lifetime, have attracted an expanding readership since her death in 1995. With the inclusion of Sarton's final novel, The Education of Harriet Hatfield, her final volume of poetry, Coming into Eighty, and her three final volumes of nonfiction, Mark K. Fulk provides a comprehensive study without limiting Sarton's literary accomplishments to the categories of feminist and lesbian writing, as other critics have done. Fulk traces the evolution of Sarton's poetry from the celebration of women's sexuality to an increased engagement with Eastern beliefs, and finally to poems resonating with the life of the elderly. He finds that the author's struggles as a Belgian emigrant to America become significant in understanding her, but Sarton's depictions of small-town life and intimate communications among women, along with her groundbreaking coming-out novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, create a fuller picture of her self-documentation. Fulk clarifies the influence of early personal struggles on her work, identifies her prim

Author Notes

Mark K. Fulk is an assistant professor of English and theatre arts at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This overview of the writings of May Sarton (1912-95) offers a helpful introduction to her most important works. Fulk (John Brown Univ.) devotes two chapters to Sarton's poetry, two to her novels, one each to her autobiography and her journals, and one section to her "most critically acclaimed novel," Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Fulk argues that both Sarton's writing and her life can be characterized as "candor to the point of pain and a search for an intimacy that is seldom achieved." She searches for an "emotional wholeness," bringing the "virtues of silence, simplicity, and solitude out of a religious context" for those who desire a sense of spirituality "to counteract the emotional poverty of the twentieth century." Although "a lesbian and a solitary," Sarton never turned her back on the nuclear family. Offering detailed summaries of her work, Fulk emphasizes that Sarton's journals and poetry are her most important writings; her novels are "set in a rarefied world--one that is caught between Europe and America." A valuable addition to all collections supporting American literature and women's studies. J. Overmyer emerita, Ohio State University

Table of Contents

Editor's Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Chapter 1 Understanding May Sartonp. 1
Chapter 2 In Search of Essence: Early Poetryp. 18
Chapter 3 The Sage Emerges: Later Poetryp. 44
Chapter 4 From Europe to America: Early Novelsp. 79
Chapter 5 Philosophical Reflections at Midlife: Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singingp. 86
Chapter 6 The Relational Sarton: Later Novelsp. 96
Chapter 7 Putting Down Roots: Early Autobiographical Writingsp. 109
Chapter 8 The Unicorn Grown Old: Later Journalsp. 127
Notesp. 157
Bibliographyp. 171
Indexp. 181