A Literary History of Iowa

A Literary History of Iowa

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304 pages, 1 drawing, 6 x 9 inches
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"What goes in and what stays out of a literary history of a midwestern state? What is an Iowa novel or poem, and who is an Iowa author? In this book Clarence Andrews has successfully tackled the most difficult problems that confront the historian of midwestern literature. The result is a well-written, interesting book that will be invaluable as a research tool on Iowa writers and their works."—Midwest Literary Newsletter

A Literary History of Iowa is an excellently useful compendium, not intended to be read straight through like a biography, but rather to be consulted, via its elaborate twenty-two-page index, for facts about a given Iowa author or book. Bringing together a great deal of hitherto scattered information, it is a very welcome contribution to our understanding of ourselves in the Midwest.”—James Stronks, Jr., Wisconsin Magazine of History

One of Iowa’s native sons, Ellis Parker Butler, once said that in Iowa 12 dollars were spent for fertilizer each time a dollar was spent for literature. Many readers will be surprised to learn from this book the extent of Iowa’s distinguished literary past—and many prizes and praise received by the state’s authors. To those already familiar with Iowa’s credits, A Literary History of Iowa will be a nostalgic and informative delight.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Iowa had good claim to recognition as the literary capital of the country. Clarence Andrews says that as he grew up he knew of a host of Iowa writers. “I also know that Iowa was winning a disproportionate share of Pulitzer prizes—Hamlin Garland, Margaret Wilson, Susan Glaspell, Frank Luther Mott, “Ding” Darling, Clark Mollenhoff. It was winning its share or more of prizes offered by publishers—and its authors’ books were being selected as Book-of-the-Month and Literary Guild books. I knew too about Carl Van Vechten as part of that avant-garde group of Midwest exiles—including Fitzgerald, Anderson and Hemingway.”

A Literary History of Iowa looks at Iowans who knew and cared for the state—people who wrote poetry, plays, musical plays, novels, and short stories about Iowa subjects, Iowa ideas, Iowa people. These writers often dealt with such themes as the state’s history, the rise of technology and its impact on the community, provincialism and exploitation, the problems of personal adjustment, the family and the community. John T. Frederick, whose own books are paramount in Iowa’s literary history, has pointed to Iowa’s special contributions to the literature of rural life in saying that no other state can show its portrayal in “fiction so rich, so varied, and so generally sound as can Iowa.”

Table of contents: 

1. Poet on the Prairie
2. Indians and Pioneers
3. The Prairie Becomes the Farmbelt—The Cabin Becomes the Town
4. Alice French (Octave Thanet)
5. Hamlin Garland: The Prairie Realist
6. Herbert Quick: The Social Life of the Prairie
7. Ruth Suckow: The Poetry of Place
8. Pittsville and Siouxland Comeof Age
9. Farmer in the Dell
10. Life on the Mississippi
11. Parnassus on the Prairie
12. A New Athens?
13. You Gotta Know the Territory
14. Historians, Editors, and Publishers