Catch-22 was published in 1961, becoming a number-one bestseller in England before American audiences identified with its anti-war sentiments, earning it classic status and prompting a film version in 1970. Heller’s dark, satirical novel became so ubiquitous that it initiated the eponymous phrase regarding paradoxical situations. Catch-22 is appreciated for its black humor, extensive use of flashbacks, contorted chronology, countercultural sensibilities, and bizarre language structures. With current trends and political climate considered, this volume revisits this classic text for a contemporary audience.
This volume, like all others in the Critical Insights series, is divided into several sections. It begins with an essay titled ‘On Catch-22: To Heller and Back’ by volume editors Laura Nicosia and James F. Nicosia. This is followed by a Biography of Joseph Heller written by Gerardo Del Guercio.
A collection of four critical contexts essays are intended to treat the novel
- From a historical vantage point
- In terms of its critical reception
- Using a specific critical lens
- And by comparing and contrasting it with another important work.
This section opens with an essay by Melinda Knight titled, “Historical Context of Catch-22: Joseph Heller’s Wars,” followed by another piece written by Melinda Knight, “Critical Reception of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: A Novel That Defined a Generation,” This essay explores the novel’s scholarly and critical responses, as well as its initial split book reviews despite now being considered one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. The following two articles are written by Peter Molin and J.M. Meyer, and James Plath. The first, “’Yossarian bleated faintly’: Catch-22 and Military Experience in the New Millennium”, written by veterans Molin and Meyer, share their thoughts about the military experience in the essay and explore how, for many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Catch-22 links contemporary military ineptitude to absurdity. The final essay, “To Absurdity and Beyond: Surrealism and Escape in Catch-22 and Going After Cacciato,” Plath proceeds from the acknowledgement that Heller’s novel is a venerated text for many readers and rings especially true for those who have served in the military.
Following these four Critical Context essays is the Critical Readings section of this book, which contains the following essays:
- A Chief Concern” The Presentation of Indigenous Americans in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Jericho Williams
- Sanity and Insanity in Heller, Vonnegut, and Nguyen, by Elissa Greenwald
- Literary Paradoxes: Reading War, Death, and Survival in The Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22, by Tammie Jenkins
- The Concept of Duty in The German Lesson and Catch-22, by Klara Penezić
- ‘It all sounds a bit crazy’: Repetition and the Immediate Callback in Catch-22, by Sam Chesters
- War Ration(ality0: Catch-22, history, and the Rhetoric of Fictionality, by Michael Hedges
- Measuring Social Change (E=mc2): Kafka’s Working Women, Camus’ Rats, and Heller’s Metallic Women, by Nancy Ann Watanabe
- ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’: Elemental Connections in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Lucky Issar
In the final section, Resources, easy-to-follow lists are provided to help guide the reader through important dates and moments in the author’s life. A selection of further reading is then provided. Each essay in Critical Insights: Catch-22 includes a list of Works Cited and detailed endnotes. Also included in this volume is a Chronology of Joseph Heller’s Life, a list of Additional Works by Joseph Heller, a Bibliography, biographies of the Editor and Contributors, and an alphabetical Index.
The Critical Insights Series distills the best of both classic and current literary criticism of the world’s most studies literature. Edited and written by some of academia’s most distinguished literary scholars, Critical Insights: Catch-22 provides authoritative, in-depth scholarship that students and researchers will rely on for years. This volume is destined to become a valuable purchase for all.
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