Though Emily Brontë (1818 – 1848) only lived to the age of thirty, she produced one of the most iconic novels in the English literary canon. Wuthering Heights is a decidedly dark study of romantic obsession that takes a rather dim view of human nature.
The sister of Charlotte and Anne Brontë, Emily was beyond introverted. She didn’t care for company outside of her immediate family, and any time she ventured from her beloved Yorkshire moors, she became sick with longing to return. Emily Brontë’s dog Keeper, a large and rather menacing dog, was among the most faithful companions of her adult life. Read More→
The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937) is considered one of this classic American author’s finest works. In 1921, it earned Wharton the distinction as the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The story is set in the 1870s and centers on Newland Archer, an upper-class New Yorker. Archer’s conflicted desires between duty to his staid but loving wife and his passion for scandal-plagued divorcée Countess Ellen Olenska are central to the narrative. The overarching conflict explored by the novel is the extent to which an individual should allow the rules of society to overrule what the heart desires. Read More→
Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759 – September 10, 1797) was a British author of fiction and nonfiction, philosopher, and women’s rights advocate. Though her body of work was fairly substantial, including many essays, a history of the French Revolution, and some fiction, she’s now almost exclusively known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She was the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later known as Mary Shelley), the author of Frankenstein; sadly, she died a few days after giving birth to her namesake.
Born in the Spitalfields section of London, her father, Edward John Wollstonecraft, frittered away his inherited fortune. He bullied his children and beat his wife, Elizabeth Dixon, during drunken rages. While in her teens, Mary sat guard at her mother’s door to try to protect her from her father. Read More→
Prior to my first visit to Iceland in the summer of 2018, when I spent the entire month of August at a writer/artist residency, I knew very little about the country generally and even less about Reykjavik specifically. And prior to my trip, I’d been so busy that I had no time to do much research. I relied on word of mouth from friends who had visited and faith that it would be a good experience.
Of course, I had seen photos of the otherworldly landscapes, but I would have only the shortest time in which to explore them; my stay was mainly within the confines of Reykjavik. And that turned out to be absolutely beyond fine. In fact, for a nerd and bookworm like myself, it was blissful. Any time I had a chance, I would explore the myriad bookstores and libraries in Reykjavik, in addition to other aspects of its very rich book culture. Read More→
Simone de Beauvoir (1908 –1986) was a French author, existential philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist whose most popular and enduring work is The Second Sex. Published in 1949, it was considered quite radical for its time and made de Beauvoir an intellectual force to be reckoned with. The book has inspired generations of women to question the status quo and strive to change it.
De Beauvoir, who wasn’t yet forty when her magnum opus was published, explored the history and mythology of the female gender. It was first published it in two volumes, Facts and Myths and Lived Experience (Les faits et les mythes & L’expérience vécue). Read More→
“Through my tears I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely” is perhaps the most iconic quote from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange (1948 – 2018). For Colored Girls has touched many hearts since it premiered in 1976. The 2019 production of For Colored Girls at SUNY New Paltz was one such powerful and emotional presentation of Shange’s play.
For Colored Girls was Shange’s first work and remains her most acclaimed theatre piece, consisting of twenty captivating poetic monologues representing black sisterhood in a racist and sexist society. Shange describes her work as choreopoem, a form of dramatic expression incorporating poetry, dance, music, and song. This term was coined in 1975 by Shange herself to describe this work. Read More→
Writing as “Ellis Bell,” Emily Brontë‘s only novel,Wuthering Heights, was published in December 1847. The brooding and complex story follows the intersection of two families — the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have sparked romantic imaginations as star-crossed lovers whose dramas and tragedies reverberate into the next generation.
Reviewers in Emily’s time were rather perplexed by the novel. Charlotte Brontë felt that her sister Emily’s magnum opus was poorly understood and supplied her own preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights. By this time, Emily (1818 – 1848) had already died at the age of thirty, and Charlotte had become something of a literary celebrity for the far more successful reception of Jane Eyre. She wrote: Read More→
Willa Cather (1873 – 1947) was born near Winchester, VA, where her family had lived and farmed for generations. The course of her life was altered when she was nine years old. Her father bought a ranch in Nebraska, uprooting the family and leaving behind the genteel, tranquil, and traditional life they had been accustomed to. The prairie was wild and free, yet more hazardous, with the struggle to tame the land and its attendant blizzards, droughts, and storms.
This new way of life made a deep impression on Cather, and would come to inspire some of her most iconic novels later in her life. After abandoning her initial ambition to study medicine, she embarked on a life of letters, first working as a journalist, critic, and editor. Her first published book was a collection of poems titled April Highlights (1903), remaining her only volume of poetry. Read More→