June 29, 2010
New book from the UI Press reminds readers of celebrated Iowa author Glaspell
Susan Glaspell (1876-1948) of Davenport, Iowa, was one of the most celebrated writers of her time, producing nine novels, more than 50 short stories and 14 groundbreaking plays, one of which won the Pulitzer Prize. "Her America: 'A Jury of Her Peers' and Other Stories," available July 1 from the University of Iowa Press, reminds contemporary readers of Glaspell's substantial contributions to short fiction.
Glaspell's work was popular and critically acclaimed during her lifetime, with her novels appearing on best-seller lists and her stories published in major magazines and in "The Best American Short Stories." Many of her short works display her remarkable abilities as a humorist, satirizing cultural conventions and the narrowness of small-town life. And yet they also evoke serious questions about societ's values and priorities and about the individual search for self-fulfillment.
While "A Jury of Her Peers" has been widely anthologized in the last several decades, the other stories Glaspell wrote between 1915 and 1925 have not been available since their original appearance. This new collection, edited by Patricia L. Bryan and Martha C. Carpentier, reprints "A Jury of Her Peers" -- restoring its original ending -- and brings to light 11 other stories, offering modern readers the chance to appreciate the full range of her literary skills.
While in high school, Glaspell contributed to the Davenport Morning Republican, and then published a column in the Weekly Outlook from 1896 to 1897. She attended Drake University before taking a reporting job for the Des Moines Daily News, including a regular feature combining light-hearted social commentary with serious advocacy of women's rights, education and prison reform. Inspired by some of the stories she wrote as a journalist, she returned to Davenport to concentrate on writing short fiction, and soon she was making her living by writing.
Glaspell was part of a generation of writers and artists from the Midwest, including Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who migrated to New York. She moved to Greenwich Village and summered in Provincetown, Mass., where she co-founded the Provincetown Players, which produced many of her plays and became one of America's foremost regional theaters.
Like these other writers, she retained a deep love for and a deep ambivalence about her native region. She parodied its provincialism and narrow-mindedness, but she also celebrated its pioneering and agricultural traditions and its unpretentious values.
Bryan is a professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With Thomas Wolf, she is the author of "Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland" from the UI Press and numerous articles on Susan Glaspell. Carpentier is a professor of English at Seton Hall University. Cofounder and president of the Susan Glaspell Society (http://academic.shu.edu/glaspell/index.htm). She is the author of "The Major Novels of Susan Glaspell," coeditor of "Disclosing Intertextualities: The Stories, Plays, and Novels of Susan Glaspell" and editor of "Susan Glaspell: New Directions in Critical Inquiry."
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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.