Chicago occupies a central position in both the geography and literary history of the United States. From its founding in 1833 through to its modern incarnation, the city has served as both a thoroughfare for the nation's goods and a crossroads for its cultural energies. The idea of Chicago as a crossroads of modern America is what guides this literary history, which traces how writers have responded to a rapidly changing urban environment and labored to make sense of its place in - and implications for - the larger whole. In writing that engages with the world's first skyscrapers and elevated railroads, extreme economic and racial inequality, a growing middle class, ethnic and multiethnic neighborhoods, the Great Migration of African Americans, and the city's contemporary incarnation as a cosmopolitan urban center, Chicago has been home to a diverse literature that has both captured and guided the themes of modern America.
The Midwest has produced a robust literary heritage. Its authors have won half of the nation’s Nobel Prizes for Literature plus a significant number of Pulitzer Prizes. This volume explores the rich racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the region. It also contains entries on 35 pivotal Midwestern literary works, literary genres, literary, cultural, historical, and social movements, state and city literatures, literary journals and magazines, as well as entries on science fiction, film, comic strips, graphic novels, and environmental writing. Prepared by a team of scholars, this second volume of the Dictionary of Midwestern Literature is a comprehensive resource that demonstrates the Midwest’s continuing cultural vitality and the stature and distinctiveness of its literature.
This study examines the genesis of Chicago's two identified literary renaissance periods (1890-1920 and 1930-1950) through the writings of Dreiser, Hughes, Wright, and Farrell. The relationship of these four writers demonstrates a continuity of thought between the two renaissance periods. By noting the affinities of these writers, patterns such as the rise of the city novel, the development of urban realism, and the shift to modernism are identified as significant connections between the two periods. Although Dreiser, Wright, and Farrell are more commonly thought of as Chicago writers, this study argues that Langston Hughes is a transitional, pivotal figure between the two periods. Through close readings and contextualization, the influence of Chicago writing on American literature--in such areas as realism and naturalism, as well as proletarian and ethnic fiction--becomes apparent.
Despite its rough-and-tumble image, Chicago has long been identified as a city where books take center stage. In fact, a volume by A. J. Liebling gave the Second City its nickname. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle arose from the midwestern capital’s most infamous industry. The great Chicago Fire led to the founding of the Chicago Public Library. The city has fostered writers such as Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago’s literary magazines The Little Review and Poetry introduced the world to Eliot, Hemingway, Joyce, and Pound. The city’s robust commercial printing industry supported a flourishing culture of the book. With this beautifully produced collection, Chicago’s rich literary tradition finally gets its due. Chicago by the Book profiles 101 landmark publications about Chicago from the past 170 years that have helped define the city and its image. Each title—carefully selected by the Caxton Club, a venerable Chicago bibliophilic organization—is the focus of an illustrated essay by a leading scholar, writer, or bibliophile. Arranged chronologically to show the history of both the city and its books, the essays can be read in order from Mrs. John H. Kinzie’s 1844 Narrative of the Massacre of Chicago to Sara Paretsky’s 2015 crime novel Brush Back. Or one can dip in and out, savoring reflections on the arts, sports, crime, race relations, urban planning, politics, and even Mrs. O’Leary’s legendary cow. The selections do not shy from the underside of the city, recognizing that its grit and graft have as much a place in the written imagination as soaring odes and boosterism. As Neil Harris observes in his introduction, “Even when Chicagoans celebrate their hearth and home, they do so while acknowledging deep-seated flaws.” At the same time, this collection heartily reminds us all of what makes Chicago, as Norman Mailer called it, the “great American city.” With essays from, among others, Ira Berkow, Thomas Dyja, Ann Durkin Keating, Alex Kotlowitz, Toni Preckwinkle, Frank Rich, Don Share, Carl Smith, Regina Taylor, Garry Wills, and William Julius Wilson; and featuring works by Saul Bellow, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Clarence Darrow, Erik Larson, David Mamet, Studs Terkel, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many more.
Nelson Algren was a renowned Chicago writer known for his social commentary and his novels like The Man with the Golden Arm and A Walk on the Wild Side. Although he continues to be remembered almost exclusively for his novels, this book aims to highlight the value and influence of his short form works. Before he died in 1981, Algren had amassed a genre-defying body of work, including short stories, articles, poems and book reviews. The present book features a comprehensive analysis and discussion of Algren's lost literature, including everything but his novels. One of the pieces covered is a masterpiece of race relations written in 1950, more than 60 years before the galvanization of the Black Lives Matter movement. Another is a scathing poem about Algren's transatlantic love affair with Simone de Beauvoir. Both items are reprinted in the book courtesy of the Algren estate. This book also includes references to Algren's works that have yet to be studied by Algren scholars.
The famous, the infamous, and the unjustly forgotten—all receive their due in this biographical dictionary of the people who have made Chicago one of the world’s great cities. Here are the life stories—provided in short, entertaining capsules—of Chicago’s cultural giants as well as the industrialists, architects, and politicians who literally gave shape to the city. Jane Addams, Al Capone, Willie Dixon, Harriet Monroe, Louis Sullivan, Bill Veeck, Harold Washington, and new additions Saul Bellow, Harry Caray, Del Close, Ann Landers, Walter Payton, Koko Taylor, and Studs Terkel—Chicago Portraits tells you why their names are inseparable from the city they called home.