July 16, 2014

Courting the Muse

Writing from History: Episode #7

Oskar Kokoschka, an Austrian expressionist painter and playwright in early 20th century Vienna, had a torrid affair with a woman--his muse--named Alma Mahler. When it ended, Oskar was devastated, feeling that he couldn't live or work without her. So, he did what any man would do: he had a life-size doll likeness of Alma made, which he continued to live with to inspire his work. Henry Schvey, a director, playwright, and professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote a play based on this period of Kokoschka's life. He tells the story of how he first met the artist and explains how he turned the historical facts into a play.

July 9, 2014

Family Histories

Writing from History: Episode #6

Today, we consider the memoir. How do authors write about their own histories as well as family and loved ones who might very well read their book? Does time change the way we right about these stories and personal tragedies? Kathleen Finneran, a writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis, talks about her memoir The Tender Land: A Family Love Story, which focuses on her family and how their lives are altered by the suicide of her younger brother, Sean. She considers how writing the book affected her personal grieving process and chronicles her family's surprising reaction to the book.

July 2, 2014

Pranking Emily Dickinson

Writing from History: Episode #5

So far, we've considered how authors and historians portray lived-lives in their creative or academic works, but what about creative works from the past? Can they too be "reinterpreted" in the present? Poet Paul Legault, co-founder of the small press Telephone Books and a writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis, tackled questions such as these with his 2012 book, The Emily Dickinson Reader: An English-to-English Translation of Emily Dickinson's Complete Poems. He'll discuss how he sought to connect present readers with these works from the past by translating these beloved poems back into English, and how translation is a broader concept than simply substituting one language for another.

June 25, 2014

Untethered Histories

Writing from History: Episode #4

Historical fiction is an ongoing balance between fact and fiction, but what if the story takes place outside of reality? What if much of the story takes place within a dream? How do you keep readers rooted in time and history? Author Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, a Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, addresses questions such as these in her award-winning novel Madeleine is Sleeping. She explains why her favorite historical novels never feel "historical," and together we examine the role of time in fiction.

June 11, 2014

A Mirror World

Writing from History: Episode #3

History and fiction are sort of antonyms, so how do historical fiction writers bring fact and fiction together? How closely must historical fiction mirror recorded history? Author Marshall Klimasewiski, Senior Writer-in-Residence at Washington University in St. Louis, discusses the precarious balance writers of historical fiction must strike even when creating alternate histories. He also talks about two stories from his collection Tyrants and a novel-in-progress that follows Salomon August Andrée, a 19th century Swedish aeronaut who attempted to float to the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon.

May 29, 2014

Summer Series

As a follow up to last summer's creative writing series "Retellings," Hold That Thought will be talking to authors and academics about "Writing from History."