Literary News: Events & Articles

Literary NewsSpring 2017

Macbeth at Willamette University
April 14-29; Salem, OR: Watch Macbeth and Lady Macbeth dismiss personal and political loyalties for a private ambition that becomes their undoing in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Click here for performance details.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Goes Global
From April 20; worldwide: London’s National Theatre screens a live production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, about the school chums of Hamlet, who are minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. Major characters in Stoppard's work, the two school chums contemplate life, death, their own limited social status, and fate in three acts with takeoffs on events that transpire in Hamlet. Click here for a venue near you.

Streetcar at Cleveland State University
April 20-30; Cleveland, OH: In a small garden apartment in 1940s New Orleans, a seemingly refined Blanche Dubois, who in trurth has a sordid past that surfaces in the play, clashes with her rough and rugged brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. Events escalate to a point of mental breakdown for Blanche in CSU's production of Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire. For more details, click here.

Orlando at University of Washington
April 25-May 7; Seattle, WA: See Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of the gender-bending fantasy by Virgnia Woolf, about an Elizabethan poet who lives for centuries. Ultimately transformed into a woman, the protagonist survives to experience a "happily ever after" full of poetic and personal success. Click here for details.

Student Discovers Forgotten Walt Whitman Novel
Walt Whitman would probably be unhappy about one of the literary world’s latest discoveries: An early novel of his has just been yanked from obscurity, and he disliked his early fiction. Forgive us, Walt Whitman—America could not resist. Recently discovered, by graduate student Zachary Turpin of the University of Houston, is Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; In Which The Reader Will Find Some Familiar Characters. About 36,000 words, the brief novel has just been republished. It was previously published only once, serially and anonymously in 1852 in a New York weekly, the Sunday Dispatch.

Complete with scheming villain, twisty plot, and plucky orphans, Jack Engle is a sentimental piece. Jack, an orphan rescued from the streets by a butcher and his wife, narrates the story. In it, Jack works for a loathsome lawyer named Mr. Covert. Covert attempts to swindle his ward, Martha—another orphan—out of her inheritance, so Jack tries to save her. Who are the “familiar”characters? To Whitman himself, Covert was one: In his journals, the writer mentions his own father's having been swindled by a lawyer, identified as "Covert the villain." Scholars grant that the novel differs greatly from Whitman's poetic masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, which was also being written then. But Jack Engle, they add, anticipates that work. In Chapter 19, Jack wanders through the Trinity Church graveyard, musing about mortality and lost lives, his mind meandering to the people outside the cemetery, his senses alert to Manhattan’s bustling crowd.

How gay that throng along the walk! Light laughs come from them, and jolly talk—those groups of well-dressed young men—those merry boys returning from school—clerks going home from their labors—and many a form, too, of female grace and elegance…. Could it be that coffins, six feet below where I stood, enclosed the ashes of like young men … and schoolboys and beautiful women….

L to R: Walt Whitman in 1854; Jack Engle in 2017, from University of Iowa Press.

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