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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


6. HUMANITIES, General literature studies

Publication Details

The John Updike Review, Vol 5, No. 2, pp 1-12, 2017


Given the diverse and polarized reaction by reviewers and scholars in the decade immediately following its publication, John Updike’s 2006 novel, Terrorist, is likely to become a textbook case for reception studies. In reception studies, differences in space (in Updike’s case, globally) and time play an important role in shaping a reader’s reaction to a text.1 Within months of its publication, Terrorist generated hundreds of reviews in dozens of countries around the globe; scholarly articles began appearing less than a year later. Most notable is not simply the sheer number of publications devoted wholly or in part to this novel, but the wide range of critical commentary. By way of brief example: the expatriate American novelist Lionel Shriver argued that Terrorist “may be Updike’s finest novel,” while Christopher Hitchens claimed to be so disgusted by it that he sent it “windmilling across the room in a spasm of boredom and annoyance.” What difference do these initial evaluations mean to subsequent readings of the novel? Sorting out the place of Terrorist in the Updike canon is likely to be an ongoing project for some time to come. This essay is an early attempt to initiate that work.