FT 010-B Indiana Writers and Literature
Professor Jonathan Baer, Department of Religion, 9:45 TTh
In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, the Hoosier State produced a remarkable set of writers whose works achieved popular renown and critical attention. This so-called the Golden Age of Indiana Literature lasted from roughly 1880-1920, and it included fiction and poetry from what were then some of the country’s most acclaimed authors. In this course we will read works from several of them, including Lew Wallace, Booth Tarkington, James Whitcomb Riley, and Theodore Dreiser. Crawfordsville’s own Lew Wallace, for instance, wrote the enormously popular novel Ben-Hur (1880), often regarded as the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century and the inspiration for several theater productions and movies. The proximity of the Lew Wallace Study & Museum, located a few blocks from campus, will enable us to learn about Wallace’s fascinating life and the circumstances that informed his writing. Likewise, the nationally beloved “Hoosier Poet” James Whitcomb Riley, author of Little Orphan Annie (1885) and other classics, grew up in Greenfield, Indiana, and lived most of his life in Indianapolis. Visits to his boyhood and adult homes will enrich our understanding of Riley and the wide appeal of his poetry. We also will view several films based on our readings. Many of the works we will examine are set in Indiana, and all of them reflect the Hoosier roots of their authors. In each case, we will ask what our authors might tell us about the history and character of Indiana and its people, along with the nature and causes of its literary efflorescence of a century past.