What Was In The Water In Davenport? – Books about Davenport Writers

We are thrilled to be hosting Marcia Noe on Saturday, February 24, 2023, at 1:30pm at The Library | Main to talk about her latest book: Three Midwestern Playwrights: How Floyd Dell, George Cram Cook, and Susan Glaspell Transformed American Theatre.

Marcia Noe teaches courses in American literature and women’s studies at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the author of Three Midwestern Playwrights: How Floyd Dell, George Cram Cook, and Susan Glaspell Transformed American Theatre, Susan Glaspell: Voice from the Heartland, and over twenty other publications on Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Susan Glaspell. In 1993, she was Fulbright Senior Lecturer-Researcher at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; with Junia C.M. Alves, she edited a collection of essays on the Brazilian theatre troupe Grupo Galpao (Editora Newton Paiva, 2006). She is a senior editor of The Dictionary of Midwestern Literature, an editor of the journal MidAmerica, and is the chair of the editorial committee of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, which gave her the MidAmerica Award for distinguished contributions to the study of midwestern literature in 2003. She has supervised 27 student conference presentations and supervised or co-authored over 27 student publications. In 2004, she won the UTC College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher award and was an elected member of UTC’s Council of Scholars and Alpha Society. She recently completed a term on the board of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga and currently sits on the boards of the League of Women Voters of Chattanooga and The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

The following is a list of books about local writers in our collection with descriptions from the publishers.

Susan Glaspell

Three Midwestern playwrights: how Floyd Dell, George Cram Cook, and Susan Glaspell transformed American theatre by Marcia Noe

Call Number: SC 812.5209 NOE | Publication Date: 2022

In the early 1900s, three small-town midwestern playwrights helped shepherd American theatre into the modern era. Together, they created the renowned Provincetown Players collective, which not only launched many careers but also had the power to affect US social, cultural, and political beliefs.

The philosophical and political orientations of Floyd Dell, George Cram Cook, and Susan Glaspell generated a theatre practice marked by experimentalism, collaboration, leftist cultural critique, rebellion, liberation, and community engagement. In Three Midwestern Playwrights, Marcia Noe situates the origin of the Provincetown aesthetic in Davenport, Iowa, a Mississippi River town. All three playwrights recognized that radical politics sometimes begat radical chic, and several of their plays satirize the faddish elements of the progressive political, social, and cultural movements they were active in.

Three Midwestern Playwrights brings the players to life and deftly illustrates how Dell, Cook, and Glaspell joined early 20th-century midwestern radicalism with East Coast avant-garde drama, resulting in a fresh and energetic contribution to American theatre. 

A critical biography of Susan Glaspell by Marcia Noe

Call Number: SC 812 Noe | Publication Date: 1976

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of English at the Graduate College of the University of Iowa.

Susan Glaspell by Linda Ben-Zvi

Call Number: SC 810 BENZY LIN | ISBN: 9780195115062 | Publication Date: 2005-04-28

The career of Susan Glaspell (1876-1948), the American playwright and novelist, follows closely the trajectory of other “reclaimed” American women writers of the century such as Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Zora Neale Hurston: well-known in her time, effaced from canonical consideration after her death, rediscovered years later through the surfacing of one work, around which critical attention has focused. Glaspell was a respected international playwright and novelist who amassed some of the most impressive credentials in American theater history, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1931. Over the past fifteen years, she has been rediscovered through the work of leading feminist scholars; and her one-act play Trifles and its short story form, “A Jury of Her Peers,” have become classics.

This book is the first collection devoted to the study of the body of Glaspell’s work. Essays by leading playwrights and scholars provide an array of perspectives on the writer and her work. The book features the first complete Glaspell bibliography, including original reviews of her plays and fiction and recent critical studies of her writing.

Susan Glaspell’s poetics and politics of rebellion by Emeline Jouve

Call Number: SC 813.52 JOUVE EME | ISBN: 9781609385088 | Publication Date: 2017

A pioneer of American modern drama and founding member of the Provincetown Players, Susan Glaspell (1876–1948) wrote plays of a kind that Robert Brustein defines as a “drama of revolt,” an expression of the dramatists’ discontent with the prevailing social, political, and artistic order. Her works display her determination to put an end to the alienating norms that, in her eyes and those of her bohemian peers, were stifling American society. This determination both to denounce infringements on individual rights and to reform American life through the theatre shapes the political dimension of her drama of revolt.

Analyzing plays from the early Trifles (1916) through Springs Eternal (1943) and the undated, incomplete Wings, author Emeline Jouve illustrates the way that Glaspell’s dramas addressed issues of sexism, the impact of World War I on American values, and the relationship between individuals and their communities, among other concerns. Jouve argues that Glaspell turns the playhouse into a courthouse, putting the hypocrisy of American democracy on trial. In staging rebels fighting for their rights in fictional worlds that reflect her audience’s extradiegetic reality, she explores the strategies available to individuals to free themselves from oppression. Her works envisage a better future for both her fictive insurgents and her spectators, whom she encourages to consider which modes of revolt are appropriate and effective for improving the society they live in. The playwright defines social reform in terms of collaboration, which she views as an alternative to the dominant, alienating social and political structures. Not simply accusing but proposing solutions in her plays, she wrote dramas that enacted a positive revolt.

A must for students of Glaspell and her contemporaries, as well as scholars of American theatre and literature of the first half of the twentieth century.

Susan Glaspell: Voice from the heartland by Marcia Noe

Call Number: SC 812 Noe | Publication Date: 1983

Western Illinois Monograph Series, Number 1

Susan Glaspell and the anxiety of expression: language and isolation in the plays by Kristina Hinz-Bode

Call Number: SC 812 HINZ | ISBN: 0786425059 | Publication Date: 2006

One of the founding members of the Provincetown Players, Susan Glaspell contributed to American literature in ways that exceed the work she did for this significant theatre group. Interwoven in her many plays, novels, and short stories is astute commentary on the human condition. This volume provides an in-depth examination of Glaspell’s writing and how her language conveys her insights into the universal dilemma of society versus self.
Glaspell’s ideas transcended the plot and character. Her work gave prominent attention to such issues as gender, politics, power and artistic daring. Through an exploration of eight plays written between the years of 1916 and 1943—Trifles, Springs Eternal, The People, Alison’s House, Bernice, The Outside, Chains of Dew and The Verge—this work concentrates on one of Glaspell’s central themes: individuality versus social existence. It explores the range of forces and fundamental tensions that influence the perception and communication of her characters. The final chapter includes a brief commentary on other Glaspell works. A biographical overview provides background for the author’s reading and interpretation of the plays, placing Glaspell within the context of literary modernism.

Midnight assassina murder in America’s heartland by Patricia L. Bryan & Thomas Wolf

Call Number: SC 364.1523 BRY | Publication Date: 2005

On a moonlit night in December 1900, a prosperous Iowa farmer was murdered in his bed–killed by two blows of an ax to his head. Four days later, the victim’s wife, Margaret Hossack, was arrested at her husband’s funeral and charged with the crime.

The vicious assault stunned and divided the close-knit rural community. The accused woman claimed to be innocent, but stories of domestic troubles and abuse provided prosecutors with a motive for the crime. Neighbors and family members were reluctant to talk about what they knew concerning the couple’s troubled marriage.

MIDNIGHT ASSASSIN takes us back to the murder, the investigation, and the trials of Margaret Hossack. The book introduces us to Susan Glaspell, a young journalist who reported the story for the Des Moines Daily News and fifteen years later transformed the events into the classic one-act play, “Trifles”, and the acclaimed short story, “A Jury of Her Peers.”

Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf researched the Hossack case for almost a decade, combing through the legal records, newspaper accounts, government documents, and unpublished memoirs. The result is a vivid portrait of life in rural America at the turn-of-the century and a chilling step-by-step account of the crime and its aftermath.

In MIDNIGHT ASSASSIN, the authors masterfully bring to light a century-old murder case that is as compelling now as it was then.

George Cram Cook

The road to the temple by Susan Glaspell

Call Number: SC 809.1 COOK GEO | Publication Date: 1927

Biography of George Cram Cook written by his wife, Susan Glaspell.

Eugene O’ Neill is one of America’s most celebrated playwrights, but relatively few Americans know the name of the man who essentially gave O’ Neill his first chance at greatness: George Cram “Jig” Cook, one of America’s most colorful and original thinkers and founder of the Provincetown Players, the first company to stage O’Neill. Cook’s story, with all its hopes, dreams, and disappointments, is told in The Road to the Temple.

First published in 1927 in the United States and reprinted in 1941, this biography is the work of Cook’s third wife, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Susan Glaspell, It traces Cook’s lifelong search for self, a search that took him from his birthplace in Davenport, Iowa, to New York to Delphi; from university teaching and truck farming, to the Provincetown Players, to the antiquity of Greece. Part of Jig’s story is told by excerpts from his journals, pictures, poetry, and fiction. Interwoven with narrative flashbacks, these entries concerning his day-to-day activities as well as his thoughts and feelings bring him to life for the reader. In addition, Glaspell offers finely crafted portraits of the American Midwest in the late nineteenth century; a vivid picture of Greenwich Village between 1910 and 1920; and a moving and lyrical account of the life she and Jig lived in Greece, where Jig died on January 11, 1924. A compelling combination of biography and autobiography, this volume presents a unique and personal picture of a fascinating American original.”

Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: theatre in ferment by Robert Károly Sarlós

Call Number: SC 792.09744 Sar | Publication Date: 1982

During the American cultural upheaval of the 1910s and 1920s, a major movement was the development of a native theatre and of groups interested in its work. This study of the Provincetown Players in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York from 1915-1922 shows their important role in presenting works of O’Neill and other leading writers of the time, describes the fascinating and powerful personality of their founder and leader Jig Cook, and analyzes with impressive sensitivity the dichotomy between the needs of an increasingly professional theatrical group and Cook’s wish to create a spontaneous communal experience. Assessing the ways in which the Players could be said to have both succeeded and failed, Sarlós notes that, ironically, the eminence of the Players as a theatrical force defeated the social goals Cook established.

The author discusses by season the productions of ninety-seven new plays which the Players staged in their active career of eight seasons. In addition to its role as producer of O’Neill, the group staged works by Susan Glaspell, Floyd Dell, Djuna Barnes, Alfred Kreymbourg, John Reed, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mike Gold, and many others.

Arthur Davison Ficke

The Spectra hoax by William Jay Smith

Call Number: SC 811 Smi | Publication Date: 1961

The story of the highly successful hoax perpetrated by Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke, who invented the “Spectric” school of poets in reaction to what they saw as the absurdity of many recent “schools”.

Floyd Dell

Floyd Dell: the life and times of an American rebel by Douglas Clayton

Call Number: SC 818.52 CLAYT DOU | Publication Date: 1994

Among the American avant-garde of the early twentieth century, Floyd Dell played a distinctive role. A boy from the Midwest who rose to influence in the Chicago Literary Renaissance and in the heyday of Greenwich Village radicalism, he became a celebrated novelist, critic, editor (of The Masses), poet, and playwright. Dell was also a notorious bohemian, proponent of free love, and champion of feminism, progressive education, socialism, and Freudianism. His love affairs earned him almost as much notoriety as his writings. His friends and colleagues included many of the great figures of the era: radical journalists John Reed and Max Eastman; the Christian Socialist Dorothy Day; novelists Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and Sherwood Anderson; and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Yet no figure was more colorful and brilliant than Dell himself. Better than anyone, he epitomized the high spirits and towering ambitions of American culture in the early decades of the century. Douglas Clayton’s biography of Dell, the first full-length life, captures the remarkable accomplishments and contradictions of a man who was both central to radical culture and profoundly skeptical of it. An early escapee from Marxism, his career never followed the familiar left-to-right course. But Dell struggled all his life with the relationship between politics and art, which makes his life so arresting and relevant today. With 8 pages of photographs

Faun at the barricadesthe life and work of Floyd Dell by G. Thomas Tanselle

Call Number: SC 813 Tan | Publication Date: 1959

A dissertation submitted to the Northwestern University graduate school in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the field of English.

Octave Thanet/Alice French

Journey to obscurity: the life of Octave Thanet by George L. McMichael

Call Number: SC 813 McM | Publication Date: 1965

Mr. McMichael’s aims have been to describe the life of Alice French and the times which produced and molded her, and to analyze the causes for the rise, decline, and collapse of her literary reputation.

Group Biographies

The stories we tell: modernism in the Tri-Cities by Meg Gillette

Call Number: SC 810.9977 STORI WE | ISBN: 1878326244 | Publication Date: 2014

This book contains Susan Glaspell (1876-1948) — The heartland stained yellow: Midwestern free-thinkers / Megan Boedecker — The coverage of Hossack murder case / Susan Glaspell — The salvation of the working class / Floyd Dell — What are you doing out there / Floyd Dell — Susan Glaspell, Existenilalist / Isaac Lauritsen — Act 1 from The Verge / Susan Glaspell.

A contrary vision: the roots of alienation in Davenport by Ted Stichnoth

Call Number: SC 977.769 STICH TED | Publication Date: 1973

This is an undergraduate honors thesis.

With Pen in Hand by Bj Elsner (Editor)

Call Number: SC 920.077 Wit | ISBN: 097282412X | Publication Date: 2003-10-01

A book by notable Quad-City writers of the past, including Alice French, Arthur Davison Ficke, Floyd Dell, George Cram Cook, and Susan Glaspell.

Outstanding Iowa women: past and present by Ethel W. Hanft

Call Number: SC 977.7 HAN | Publication Date: 1980

Includes biographical sketches and photographs of Alice French and Susan Glaspell.

A book of Iowa authors by Iowa authors; edited by Johnson Brigham

Call Number: SC 810.99777 Bri | Publication Date: 1930

Includes biographical sketches of Arthur Davison Ficke, Octave Thanet/Alice French, and Susan Glaspell.

Iowa literary heritage trail: illustrated visit to birthplaces, residences or burial sites Prepared by Iowa Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book, located at the Public Library of Des Moines.

Call Number: SC 810.99777 Iow | Publication Date: 1993

Includes Floyd Dell, Arthur Davison Ficke, Susan Glaspell, and Octave Thanet/Alice French.

(posted by Cristina)

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