Celestial Timepiece: A Joyce Carol Oates Patchwork is intended to be a resource for students, scholars, and fans of Joyce Carol Oates’s work. Begun as a simple bibliography in August of 1995, the site has since grown tremendously, offering, perhaps, a surface reflection of JCO’s own deep literary project. A goal is to provide a free exchange of information, and to encourage discussion and scholarship among JCO’s admirers around the world.
As an extension of this website, in 2014 I began creating an archive of Ontario Review, the literary journal run by Raymond J. Smith and Joyce Carol Oates; and I started a scholarly journal, Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies.
JCO has written a poem called “Celestial Timepiece,” but this site actually took its name from a passage in her Gothic masterpiece, Bellefleur:
Celestial Timepiece was the largest quilt, but Matilde was sewing it for herself—it wasn’t to be sold: up close it resembled a crazy quilt because it was asymmetrical, with squares that contrasted not only in color and design but in texture as well.
“Feel this square, now feel this one,” Matilde said softly, taking Germaine’s hand, “and now this one—do you see? Close your eyes.” Coarse wool, fine wool, satins, laces, burlap, cotton, silk, brocade, hemp, tiny pleats. Germaine shut her eyes tight and touched the squares, seeing them with her fingertips, reading them. Do you understand? Matilde asked.
Noel complained that Celestial Timepiece made his eye jump. You had to stand far back to see its design, and even then it was too complicated—it gave him a headache. “Why don’t you just sew some nice little satin comforter,” he said. “Something small, something pretty.”
“I do what I am doing,” Matilde said curtly.
For its first twenty years, Celestial Timepiece was served from the University of San Francisco; starting in 2015 it is moving to a new home on WordPress.
In constructing this site, I have had the good fortune to encounter a number of generous individuals who have provided valuable information, assistance, and encouragement including Kathleen Manwaring, keeper of the JCO Archive at the Syracuse University Library, and Greg Johnson, author, critic, and biographer of JCO.
Joyce Carol Oates herself has been astoundingly generous in allowing me to use her material on this web site; and though it is my own personal project, it has nonetheless become the de facto official JCO website.
The portrait of JCO in the banner of this site is by Paolo Galetto.
I am a reference librarian at the University of San Francisco.