The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945

6 Things to Check Out Before Staging the Space Between

In advance of the 2019 meeting, conference organizer Nicole Flynn has curated a list of six essentials for reading, viewing, and listening.  Take some time to explore before South Dakota!

1.  Henry Perley, "The Injun Boss"

Henry Perley (1885–1972) lived a fascinating life. A member of the Maliseet nation, Perley grew up in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine and developed a strong connection to the woods and lakes of northern Maine and southern New Brunswick at an early age. More commonly known as Chief Henry Red Eagle, he “played the Indian” in numerous films with Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino, traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and even did a turn on Broadway in Cole Porter’s See America First. During the heyday of pulp fiction, he regularly contributed short stories to magazines such as ArgosyTop-Notch Stories, and All-Story Weekly. Dale Potts, in his paper “Maliseet Writer Henry Perley and a Native American Perspective on Twentieth-Century North Woods,” suggests that stories such as “The Red Man’s Burden” (1915) depict Native Americans as fully-realized central characters, active participants in the twentieth-century New England landscape, rather than as objects of myth; and that, by incorporating this Native American perspective into mainstream media, Perley created a complex dialogue between author and business interests that included indigenous cultural identities.

This story, “The Injun Boss,” was published in All-Story Weekly in July 1915.  (Note:  Clicking the link will take users to Google Drive, due to file size.)

2.  Noël Coward, Design for Living

If you’re looking for a racy romp of a read leading up to the conference, we recommend Noël Coward’s Design for Living. The play, starring Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, and Coward himself as three artists in a ménage à trois, was considered too risqué for the London stage and therefore premiered on Broadway in 1933. In Coward’s own words:

These glib, over-articulate and amoral creatures force their lives into fantastic shapes and problems because they cannot help themselves. Impelled chiefly by the impact of their personalities each upon the other, they are like moths in a pool of light, unable to tolerate the lonely outer darkness but equally unable to share the light without colliding constantly and bruising each other's wings.  

Krista Daniel will examine the subversive aesthetics of this comedy of manners in her paper “Excessively Fascinating: The Aesthetics of Comedy in Noël Coward’s Design for Living.”  Read Design for Living here

3.  Sinclair Lewis, Bethel Merriday

In the early twentieth century and interwar era, the image of the “stage-struck girl” dominated plays, films, and the pages of backstage novels. The stereotype was a fame-chasing, narcissistic, flighty female who was often the object of (male) ridicule. Sinclair Lewis’s 1940 novel Bethel Merriday, however, paints a different picture. In this backstage satire, the novel’s heroine Bethel is dedicated to the work of acting, rather than the desire to become a star. Straddling the worlds of Connecticut summer stock and "legitimate" Broadway theater, and paralleling its heroine with the protagonists of multiple feminist plays (including A Doll’s House), Bethel Merriday features a title character who is determined, ambitious, and industrious. Hear more about it by attending Maya Cantú’s paper, “‘She Was a Worker in the Theater': Backstage Industry and the Stage-Struck Girl in Sinclair Lewis’s Bethel Merriday (1940).”  Read Bethel Merriday here.

4.  The Architecture of Eduardo Torroja

Spanish engineer and architect Eduardo Torroja (1899–1961) revolutionized the fields of design and construction in the early twentieth century. However, his politics led to his exclusion from La Generación del‘27, a collection of Spanish avant-garde poets and artists. The influence of this group extended past literary circles, affecting forms of material expression, such as the pioneering reinforced concrete work of Torroja and other structural engineers. The reluctance to include Torroja in La Generación del‘27 highlights the critical relationship among arts, engineering, and the Franco regime in Spain. Explore Torroja’s work here, and learn more about it by attending Federico Garcia Lammers’s talk, “Eduardo Torroja and the Engineering of Technocratic Authority in Franco’s Spain.”

5.  Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon:  The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Published for the first time in 2018, this book records Hurston’s interviews with Cudjo Lewis, born Oluale Kossola, the last living slave to remember his life in Africa. When Hurston met him in 1927, he was 86 years old. Over the course of several months, Hurston visited Lewis in Africatown (now Plateau), Alabama and recorded Lewis’s experiences as a child in West Africa: of being captured and held in a barracoon, of sailing the Middle Passage aboard the Clothilde in 1859 along with more than 100 other Africans, and his years as a slave in America. In her introduction to the transcripts of her interviews, she speaks of her motivation for recording and publishing Lewis in his own words. She writes: “All these words from the seller, but not one word from the sold. The Kings and Captains whose words moved ships. But not one word from the cargo. The thoughts of the ‘black ivory,’ the ‘coin of Africa,’ had no market value. Africa’s ambassadors to the New World have come and worked and died, and left their spoor, but no recorded thoughts.” Sarah Cornish is equally invested in reclaiming Hurston’s own voice. Despite Hurston’s efforts at anthropological anonymity, Cornish argues that Hurston’s silent presence enabled Lewis’s story to manifest itself. Her paper, “Feminist Reparative Reading and Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last 'Black Cargo'”  seeks to, in her words, “listen to the way in which the voice of the writer is staged with an ear for the reparative, optimistic, and quietly awe-inspiring ways the book might change our comprehension of its contexts.”

6.  Sir Walford Davies, A Short Requiem (Op. 44a), 1915

In our concluding panel this year, we will enjoy a performance of the music of the space between. Andrew Robinette will introduce a performance of A Short Requiem, Op. 44a (1915) by Sir Walford Davies. Davies was a pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War I and dedicated the piece “in sacred memory of all of those who have fallen in the war.” He is best known as a radio personality for the newly formed BBC and his piece Royal Air Force March Past (composed with George Dyson in 1918). However, this understudied piece for voice and organ is a beautiful and haunting elegy on the Great War.  Listen to the first movement below.


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