Churchwell, Sarah 1970–

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Churchwell, Sarah 1970–

(Sarah Bartlett Churchwell)

PERSONAL: Born 1970. Education: Vassar College, B.A.; Princeton University, M.A., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—School of English and American Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR3 7TJ, England. E-mail—s.[email protected]

CAREER: University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, senior lecturer in American literature, 1999–.


The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Granta (London, England), 2004, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to books, including The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing, edited by Lorna Sage, Cambridge University Press, 1999; and Middlebrow Moderns: Popular Women Writers and the Literary Market of the 1920s, by Lisa Botshon and Meredith Goldsmith, Northeastern University Press, 2003. Contributor of reviews to Times Literary Supplement; contributor to other periodicals, including Antioch Review, Criticism, Auto/Biography Studies, Contemporary Literature, and American Literary Review.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A book on American cultural mythology and popular narratives, tentatively titled What Americans Like; a book about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

SIDELIGHTS: Sarah Churchwell is a scholar of American popular culture whose interests include film and literary theory, gender theory, and the study of popular myths and icons. For her first book, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, she chose to write about the glamorous, beautiful Hollywood star who died at the age of thirty-six from a drug overdose. Monroe, whose real name was Norma Jean, has had her personality blown up and distorted to unrecognizable proportions over the years, according to Churchwell. In her book, she analyzes the numerous biographies and other works about Monroe in an effort to analyze how the Marilyn Monroe myth was created and explain why the actress became such an obsession to so many. Monroe's image, Churchwell maintains, has been mythologized to such an extent that she has become "a metaphor that has lost its figurative power, and gets taken literally."

The author studies the writings of such people as Monroe's former husband, playwright Arthur Miller, as well as writers like Gloria Steinem, Joyce Carol Oates, and Norman Mailer, all of whom have fueled the myth. These testimonies and portraits, notes Churchwell, are distorted by the authors' flawed perspectives, skewed by "misogyny, moralizing, speculation, eroticism, resentment, and fear," according to Booklist contributor Donna Seaman. Seaman called the book a "bold deconstruction of the Monroe myth." A Publishers Weekly contributor appreciated the "refreshingly detached perspective" of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. A.O. Scott, writing in the New York Times Book Review, found that the book "is in large measure a sustained, strenuous critique of the lazy thinking, sloppy research and overall softheadedness that characterize so much popular biographical writing."



Booklist, December 15, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 698.

Choice, October, 2005, J. Bodnar, review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 299.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 992.

Library Journal, November 15, 2004, Carol J. Binkowski, review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 62.

Nation, November 7, 2005, Jon Mooallem, "Over My Dead Body," review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 33.

New York Times Book Review, March 6, 2005, A.O. Scott, "Marilyn as Metaphor," p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, November 15, 2004, review of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, p. 50.


University of East Anglia Web site, (January 20, 2006), biographical and career information on Sarah Churchwell.