Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

The Arts Along the River

The Literary Scene

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Literature exhibit section
Artifacts and images were loaned from many sources, including:
~ Center for Faulkner Studies, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau MO
~ Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York NY
~ Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schulz, edited and designed by Chip Kidd

"The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."
- William Faulkner

No name is more synonymous with Mississippi River culture than Mark Twain. Nineteenth century river days were fully captured in Life on the Mississippi, yet it was through his humorous but satirical stories such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that he introduced a new, uniquely American style of writing.

In the 20th century, the Mississippi River writers who burst upon the literary scene turned a harsh spotlight on their history, their communities, and their own lives. Many of their stories and settings became crucial to America's understanding of itself.

Growing up on the fringes of St. Paul society, F. Scott Fitzgerald illuminated Jazz Age characters infatuated with upper-crust society in The Great Gatsby. Sinclair Lewis exposed the hidden manners and morals of small-town Minnesota in Main Street. St. Louis poet T.S. Eliot wrote "The Waste Land," a meditation on human unease in the modern world. A fictitious Mississippi county was created by William Faulkner to explore family and racial tensions. Tennessee Williams captured the last remnants of faded New Orleans society in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Alex Haley exposed life from a slave's point of view in Roots.

New Orleans is haunted with literary spirits, as is St. Louis, Memphis, and The Twin cities - novelists, historians, playwrights, poets - all linked to the Mississippi River valley. They may focus on distinctly separate regions, yet they merge as one to challenge American traditions and attitudes.

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Did you know … ?
T.S. Eliot reached critical acclaim with serious poetry, but his 1939 whimsical volume of children's verse became the basis for a world-famous stage production. "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" was adapted into the hit musical "Cats."

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This section "The Arts Along the River" has the following related pages:

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2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
You are here!jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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