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Visiting Thomas Wolfe’s Old Kentucky Home in Asheville, NC

By Audrey Golden. Feb 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Literary travel

Thomas Wolfe lived a very brief life. He was born in 1900 and lived only until 1938, dying of tuberculosis in his family’s stately home in Asheville, North Carolina. Although Wolfe was only 37 years old at the time of his death, he produced some of the greatest American modernist novels, including Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life (1929). In that novel, Thomas Wolfe celebrated his “Old Kentucky Home”—the house in Asheville where he was raised. If you’re interested in learning more about the writer, we recommend taking a trip to Asheville and touring the Wolfe family home. But before you go, don’t forget to read (or re-read, as the case may be) Look Homeward, Angel so that you can be sure to recognize the house that Wolfe painstakingly depicted in his novel. 

     
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Sam Shepard's Wildly Varied Literary Career

By Audrey Golden. Feb 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Drama

Just two years ago, Sam Shepard’s now-famous play True West (1980) was revived on the London stage at the tricycle theatre. About fifteen years ago now, the seminal work was revived for the first time in New York City on a stage starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. For many theatregoers and movie viewers today, we know Sam Shepard best for his own performances as an actor, in films such as Days of Heaven (1978), The Right Stuff (1983), and All the Pretty Horses (2000). Yet Shepard has a long and interesting literary career that began years before he ever appeared in cinematic features. Between 1966 and 1968, Shepard won six Obie Awards for his playwriting, and he ultimately went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his 1979 play Buried Child. He has published more than 40 plays to date, along with nine collections of plays and short stories.

     
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Kate Chopin's Personal and Literary Awakening

By Connie Diamond. Feb 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see our strengths and put us on the road we are destined to travel. And so it was for Kate Chopin in the late 1880s. She is now well-known for her short stories and one famous novel. In the late nineteenth century, however, she was not an author at all, but a widow and mother of five saddled with an enormous debt left by her late husband. Shortly after her husband’s death, her mother died as well, leaving Kate in a state of depression.

     
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How the Iowa Writers' Workshop Proves the Value of an MFA

By Matt Reimann. Feb 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

Six years ago, author Chad Harbach wrote an essay about the two cultures producing the glut of literary fiction writers today: that of New York City media and publishing, and that of the university MFA program. New York City has long been the hotbed of American cosmopolitan culture, and many of the country’s great writers from the very beginning, like Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Edith Wharton helped ossify New York as the closest thing the nation would have to a literary epicenter. Yet in the past few decades, a new titan has emerged, coming from the halls of higher education and graduate creative writing programs across the country. And of all of these, perhaps the most significant has been the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

     
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Saving Langston Hughes' Home

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 1, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature, Literary travel

The slow and ever-increasing gentrification of New York neighborhoods isn't breaking news to anyone. Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Chinatown are full of newly renovated apartments and upscale restaurants, and those are just a few examples. Yet the transformation of these neighborhoods is a cultural and emotional loss to the generations of people who have called them home. In the wake of these changes, they are faced with the prospect of being displaced due to increasing costs. In some cases, even city landmarks aren't safe.

     
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Read More Poetry: The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Edition

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature

As we continue to encourage the world to read more poetry, today, we’d like to highlight one American poet in particular whose work did much to shape the landscape of U.S. thought and history. Indeed, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is remembered for the sincerity with which he wrote. He was firmly entrenched in the American story he was living, and his poetry helped to preserve it for the future.

     
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Historical Accuracy of Little House on the Prairie

By Andrea Diamond. Dec 13, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature

"A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin."

One of the most beloved opening lines in children’s literature comes from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s third book in the Little House series, Little House on the Prairie. It details the experience of a northern family’s migration in their covered wagon and working the land they eventually call home. From Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota, the Wilder family embodies the pioneer spirit carried by many in the late 1800s.

     
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Willa Cather and Pioneer Novels

By Andrea Diamond. Dec 7, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature

As a hardened millennial, I am well-versed in the first-world problems of modern life. I've been reduced to drinking lattés made with soy milk when my preferred dairy-substitute of almond milk is unavailable. I have made the arduous journey into the gas station when the pay at the pump feature is out of order. I’ve accidentally put clothes that are labeled “lay flat to dry” in the dryer and been left with a pile of sweaters that look like they belong to a Chihuahua. Faced with such difficulties in 2016, I am hard pressed to imagine what daily life must have been like on the frontier for early Americans. Other than the narrative provided from my American Girl Doll, Kirsten, and the first-hand experience of dying from dysentery while playing the board game “Oregon Trail,” I do not have much information on the pioneer life―but I love to learn. If you’re like me, a dry history book probably isn’t your favorite genre to curl up with at the end of the day. Instead, consider reading one of these seven pioneer novels by Willa Cather to get a glimpse of life before Netflix.

     
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Saving the French Home of James Baldwin

By Audrey Golden. Nov 3, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Literary travel

If you’re a book collector or an avid reader, chances are you’ve visited the home of at least one notable writer. In all likelihood, if you’re like us, you seek out authors’ homes whenever you’re on vacation or traveling to a new city. What do you gain from visiting the home of a writer? Trips like these give us unparalleled access to the ambiences in which works, both small and great, arose. After all, what can be more intimate—other than, perhaps, immersing yourself in the literary worlds created by great masters of fiction—than standing in the office, kitchen, or bedroom of a writer whose work you’ve found refreshing, inspiring, life-affirming, and all of the other adjectives that are particular to our own individual experiences? We hope you agree that such literary travels are important, and on that note, we need to tell you that the French home of the author and activist James Baldwin is set for demolition.

     
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Tortilla Flat: A Little Book and a Big Controversy

By Matt Reimann. Sep 3, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

On May 28, 1935, the world saw the release of Tortilla Flat. It would become John Steinbeck’s first truly successful book, heralding the arrival of a truly distinguished American voice. Steinbeck later went on to write more ambitious novels like East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, ultimately leading the author to a Nobel Prize in Literature. But before all that pomp and regard, there was a slim, comic novel about jolly laborers passing time in California.

     
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