Chopin Rediscovered | Episode | LPB
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Chopin Rediscovered
Chopin Rediscovered


NARRATOR: All in all, Kate Chopin wrote more than 100 novels, short stories and poems. These works have had critics and fans. The novel, The Awakening is her masterpiece. It was chiefly lambasted by critics in the late 1890s, but it has been highly praised since the late 1960s.

SOUNDBITE: Emily Toth/Louisiana State University
The very first review The Awakening got was a rave review, a very positive review from a woman, an independent new woman named Lucy Monroe of Chicago. But, that was the last good review. Then The Awakening started being reviewed by men who didn't like it, and a couple of women who were kind of in between about it. Willa Cather was one, but it got savage, really scathing reviews from men who basically denied that women could feel the way Edna did.

NARRATOR: Those reviews contributed to the almost entire disappearance of Chopin's works. That was until a professor at Harvard encouraged a man. Per Seyersted of Norway to read Chopin. Seyersted was enthralled by what he found. The writings reminded him of stories his mother had told him in Norway concerning women's battles for independence.

He's the one who went around to libraries and magazines, put together all her short stories in two volumes, so that we have, we have her writings because of his willingness to do that, at a time when Xeroxing, photocopying, didn't exist yet. Computers didn't exist. He had to copy things by hand, go to libraries in St. Louis and copy by pencil, short stories, and did it. He was dedicated.

NARRATOR: Among Seyersted's reprints was an article claiming that The Awakening had been banned from libraries. The book was never banned. Worn out copies were simply never replaced in libraries. But, the idea that the book had been banned only helped to convince more people to read The Awakening in the 1960's and 70's as the women's independence movement was well underway.

I think he really believed it was banned. But he brought back Kate Chopin at a time when we needed her, and through the lens that we needed to see her as an independent voice long before we thought they existed, squelched but still speaking to us hundreds of years later.

NARRATOR: Seyersted presented Chopin's works to the world in the book The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. He also authored Kate Chopin A Critical Biography and a Kate Chopin Miscellany. Now back to Kate Chopin's writing.

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