turned to the visual arts, producing 2,500 paintings and drawings before his death.
Audio Starts @ 2:25
turned to the visual arts, producing 2,500 paintings and drawings before his death.
Audio Starts @ 2:25
Jessie Redmon Fauset was born on April 27, 1882, in Camden County, New Jersey. She grew up in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She received a scholarship to study at Cornell University, where she was likely the first black female student, and she graduated with a BA in classical languages in 1905. After college, she worked as a teacher in Baltimore and Washington, D. C.
In 1912, Fauset began to write for the NAACP’s official magazine, The Crisis, which was co-founded and edited by W. E. B. Du Bois. After several years contributing poems, essays, and reviews to The Crisis, Fauset became the journal’s literary editor in 1919, moving to New York City for the position.
In her role as literary editor, Fauset introduced then-unknown writers, including Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Anne Spencer, to a national audience. In his memoir The Big Sea, Langston Hughes writes, “Jessie Fauset at The Crisis, Charles Johnson at Opportunity, and Alain Locke in Washington were the three people who mid-wifed the so-called New Negro literature into being. Kind and critical—but not too critical for the young—they nursed us along until our books were born.”
Along with her poetry and short fiction in The Crisis, Fauset published several novels known for their portrayal of middle-class African American life, including There Is Confusion (Boni and Liveright, 1924) and Plum Bun (Matthews & Marrot, 1928). She also edited The Brownies’ Book, a periodical for African American children, from 1920 to 1921.
Fauset left The Crisis in 1926 to teach French at a high school in the Bronx. She married Herbert Harris, a businessman, in 1929, and they lived together in New Jersey until his death in 1958. Fauset then returned to Philadelphia, where she lived until her death on April 30, 1961.
Comedy, American Style (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1933)
The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1931)
Plum Bun (Matthews & Marrot, 1928)
There Is Confusion (Boni and Liveright, 1924)
|1882:||She was born Jessie Redmona Fauset (later known as Jessie Redmon Fauset) on April 27, 1882, in Fredericksville, Camden County, Snow Hill Center Township, New Jersey.|
|1919:||In 1919 Fauset left teaching to become the literary editor for The Crisis, founded by W. E. B. Du Bois of the NAACP.|
|1924:||Her first novel, There is Confusion, was applauded by Alain Locke in the 1924 February issue of the Crisis.|
|1925:||Notably, Fauset included five essays, including “Dark Algiers the White,” detailing her six-month journey with Laura Wheeler Waring to France and Algeria in 1925 and 1926.|
|1926:||In 1926, Fauset left The Crisis and returned to teaching, this time at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, where she may have taught a young James Baldwin.|
|1928:||Plum Bun written by Jessie Redmon Fauset was first published in 1928.|
Russia’s most famous poet, Alexander Pushkin was born into one of Russia’s most famous noble families. His mother was the granddaughter of an Abyssinian prince, Hannibal, who had been a favorite of Peter I, and many of Pushkin’s forebears played important roles in Russian history. Pushkin began writing poetry as a student at the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo, a school for aristocratic youth. As a young man, Pushkin was immersed in French poetry and Russian Neoclassicism. His early output was generically diverse and included elegies, songs, and epistles.
After graduating in 1817, Pushkin threw himself into St. Petersburg society, pursuing pleasure as well as politics. Certain poems from these years commented on the limits of autocracy and directed invective toward high-ranking officials; they were circulated widely but never published and eventually came back to haunt Pushkin after their discovery amongst the belongings of the Decembrists, the military faction that rose up to challenge Nicholas I. Pushkin’s first major verse narrative, the mock epic Ruslan i Liudmila (1820), dates from his St. Petersburg period. Written in iambic tetrameter, the poem is a faux-fairy tale based on medieval Russian history. Pushkin’s first major success, the poem also generated controversy for its break with prevailing verse traditions. Soon after its publication, Pushkin was sent into exile in southern Russia for his outspoken political views. During the first years of his exile (1820-1823), Pushkin traveled to the Caucasus and Crimea, writing lyrics and narrative poems that exhibited debts to his recent discovery, in French translation, of the works of George Gordon, Lord Byron.
At the end 1823, Pushkin began work on his masterpiece, Evgeny Onegin (Eugene Onegin). Written over seven years, the poem was published in full in 1833. In it, Pushkin invented a new stanza: iambic tetrameter with alternating feminine and masculine rhymes. The poem is also notable for its inventive and exuberant language and social critique. And while Pushkin played with autobiography, the verse novel turned out to be more autobiographical than even he knew: like Pushkin himself, Onegin dies in a duel. In general, Pushkin’s life was marked by political and romantic scandal. Though Nicholas I eventually released him from exile, Pushkin’s work was frequently censored, his letters intercepted, and his status with the court remained tenuous until his death.
In 1831, Pushkin married Natalia Goncharova. Her beauty and favor at court led to many problems for Pushkin: Nicholas himself was infatuated with her, as was the French royalist George D’Anthès-Heeckeren who openly pursued Natalia for years. Pushkin eventually challenged D’Anthès to a duel, which he lost. He died on January 29, two days after being mortally wounded. While the court sympathized with D’Anthès, the Russian public mourned Pushkin. Fearing unrest, the government held Pushkin’s funeral in a small church, admitting mourners by ticket only. He was buried at dawn next to his mother at Svyatye Gory Monastery.
Pushkin’s most famous poems are decidedly Romantic in their celebration of freedom and defense of personal liberty, but his concise, moderate, and spare style has proven difficult for many critics to categorize. His many narrative poems, epics, and lyrics are mainstays of the Russian literary tradition and widely memorized. His works have inspired countless song cycles, ballets, and other artistic interpretations. In 1880, a statue of Pushkin was unveiled in Moscow, to speeches given by Dostoevsky and Turgenev, who claimed that the statue allowed Russians to claim themselves as a great nation “because this nation has given birth to such a man.”
indeed, Aiken himself, who never lost his self-confidence and who always denied the charge that his poetry might be too difficult. Benjamin DeMott considered possibilities for Aiken’s lack of exposure in a Saturday Review article: “The reasons for the neglect aren’t so far to seek as might be supposed. They have to do partly with this poet’s reluctance to break with certain nineteenth-century conventions of sound and posture. . . . Aiken has often flown against [dominant taste], writing heavy music, laying out gorgeous sound, providing no clear ‘speaker,’ no definable ‘dramatic situation,’ and pruning no modifiers.” According to Alden Whitman of the New York Times, Louis Untermeyer once commented that “the poet made no effort to popularize himself or make himself in fashion.” Aiken noted one curious phenomenon about his critical reception. He wrote to Malcolm Cowley that “each new book is panned—but in the background is the implication that all the previous ones were good.”
A childhood tragedy left an indelible impression on Aiken. When he was eleven, his father shot first Aiken’s mother and then himself. Aiken related the circumstances of his parents’ death in his autobiography, Ushant: “After the desultory early-morning quarrel, came the half-stifled scream, and the sound of his father’s voice counting three, and the two loud pistol shots and he tiptoed into the dark room, where the two bodies lay motionless, and apart, and, finding them dead, found himself possessed of them forever.” It has been suggested that much of Aiken’s interest in psychology stemmed from that shattering incident. Aiken once said that his short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” (a psychological portrait of a disturbed boy) was “a projection of my own inclination to insanity.” According to Richard Hauer Costa, writing in the Nation, Aiken was “at all times an ‘I’ writer. He neither could nor wished to separate his life from his work.” Aiken imbued much of his writing with psychological themes, frequently using the metaphor of a voyage to signify a journey to self-knowledge. Jennifer Aldrich noted in the Sewanee Review: “Three of Aiken’s five novels, many of his short stories, and his first long poetic series, The Divine Pilgrim, as well as some of the later poems, were all written in the physical form of a journey. The actual vehicles of these journeys seem . . . to be in some way a symbol for consciousness; and the goal is the self.” Throughout his career, Aiken measured his characters’ progress along the voyage with a Freudian yardstick. Psychological themes were sometimes explored in unconventional formal structures. In a preface to his Three Novels: Blue Voyage, Great Circle, King Coffin, Aiken commented: ” Great Circle, written five years after Blue Voyage, is just as insistently psychological in its approach to its theme, but less closely tethered to my own personality than its predecessor. . . . My early and continued preoccupation with musical form was allowed greater play.”
Other early impressions reflected in Aiken’s philosophy and writing were formed at Harvard, where he showed interest in the work of—among others—Henry and William James, Walt Whitman, the Symbolists, and the English Romanticists. In one case, an admired writer’s style was baldly reproduced in Aiken’s work. Alden Whitman reported in the New York Times that in his maturity Aiken called his first book of verse, Earth Triumphant, and Other Tales in Verse,”a dead steal from [John] Masefield.” Aiken was aware that critics considered his style imitative, and at times he responded humorously to such suggestions. In 1918, for example, he wrote a dream dialogue in which Ezra Pound said, “Swinburne plus Fletcher minus Aiken equals Aiken,” and Louis Untermeyer responded, “Eliot plus Masters minus Aiken equals Aiken.” Aiken discussed the issue of influence more seriously with Robert Hunter Wilbur in a Paris Review interview. The work of T. S. Eliot, a friend from Harvard days, had had a “tremendous influence” on him, said Aiken; but there had also been “a lot of interchange” in their relationship. As Aiken phrased it, “the juices went both ways.”
A Harvard acquaintance to whom Aiken gave great credit was a professor of his, George Santayana. In the Paris Review interview, Aiken asserted that it was Santayana who shaped his “view of what poetry would ultimately be.” Santayana’s personal philosophy and his emphasis on the philosophical content of poetry were enormously appealing to Aiken. According to Jennifer Aldrich in the Sewanee Review, when Aiken was “invited to give his notions of what poetry should be” he turned to the following passage from Santayana’s Three Philosophical Poets: “Focus a little experience, give some scope and depth to your feeling, and it grows imaginative; give it more scope and more depth, focus all experience within it, make it a philosopher’s vision of the world, and it will grow more imaginative in a superlative degree, and be supremely poetical. . . . Poetry, then, is not poetical for being short-winded or incidental, but on the contrary, for being comprehensive and having range. If too much matter renders it heavy, that is the fault of the poet’s weak intellect, not of the outstretched world.”
Aiken produced much of his most important work in the 1920s and early 1930s, even though this period was one of personal upheaval for the author, including a divorce from his first wife and a suicide attempt. Between 1934 and 1936, Aiken wrote under the pseudonym of Samuel Jeake, Jr. as London correspondent for the New Yorker. Following his divorce in 1939 from his second wife and his remarriage, Aiken returned to the United States and settled in New England, where he wrote poetry mainly about the area.
While Aiken admired many writers early in his career, that number decreased sharply with the passing years. His views, always vehement, became increasingly vitriolic. In an interview with Harvey Briet in 1950, he called William Faulkner “the great American genius, the only adult writer of fiction we’ve had in the last twenty years on a major scale.” In 1969, he could name no such leader. He told Alden Whitman of the New York Times: “I think we’re going through a very depressing decline in taste. . . . I don’t think there is any first-rate fiction, and I mean to include everybody in that—Nabokov, Bellow, and so on.” In Whitman’s opinion, Aiken had “scarcely a kind word for anybody or anything except comic strips, martinis and Conrad Aiken.”
Poets fared no better than novelists in Aiken’s assessment of the state of writing. In 1968 he told Wilbur in the Paris Review: “I think we’ve come to a kind of splinter period in poetry. These tiny little bright fragments of observation—and not produced under sufficient pressure—some of it’s very skillful, but I don’t think there’s anywhere a major poet in the process of emerging.” Aiken had strong words, too, for anything resembling clubbiness. He once wrote that poets “really stink. Especially in large numbers, when herding.” Patricia Reynolds Willis, writing for the Georgia Review, recorded his feelings about writers’ colonies: “One writer by himself is bad enough, but if you get five in a room, it’s terrible. And I doubt if anything good comes of it. It’s much better to just go and hire a room in a lodging house and sequester yourself there in the city, and just get lost. But at those places, you’ve got a little sacred cabin out in the woods and have your own little lunch put at your doorstep at one p.m., and you are supposed to sit there and produce like a hen in a hen factory.”
I. A. Richards felt that Aiken was more gracious than the above comments would indicate. Richards wrote in a Times Literary Supplement review of the Selected Letters of Conrad Aiken: “Few poets can have made greater efforts or faced more reasonably deprivation of recognition. His truly prodigious output met with curiously intermittent appreciation, periods of long neglect being taken with unflagging endurance and resolution. Along with this went a truly noteworthy immunity to those infections of jealousy and envy which afflict so many of us.” The kindness Aiken showed to Malcolm Lowry, acting as a sort of father figure to the young writer, was noted by critics; and Richards noted that “his joy . . . when he can really go all out in praise . . . knows no bounds.” Confident of his stature among peers, Aiken was modest when it came to the question of his place in history. Replying to a schoolboy who had praised his work, Aiken once wrote: “No, I don’t have any great notion about where I stand as a poet. That will be taken care of by those wiser people who come later on the scene than we do. Thus, as in their turn, those opinions too will be revalued over and over. None of us knows in what direction poetry and those other arts will turn—that’s part of the cruel fascination of being interested in the arts as you are, and keeping your head about it.”
Aiken died in 1973 in his birth place, Savannah, Georgia. The Letters of Conrad Aiken and Malcolm Lowry, 1929-1954, published in 1992, reveals the literary development of these two men through their long-term correspondence to each other and the accompanying illustrations, drafts, chronologies, and editorial notes. Canadian Literature reviewer Paul Tiessen suggested that Aiken’s letters were “assurances of real touch-stones of gain and loss within more or less objectifiable personal and literary worlds.”