IHS Exhibition Focuses on Indiana Literature

CONTACT:  Amy Osajima, aosajima@indiana.edu
TEL.:  812-855-0514


Bloomington, Ind – The 19th state’s rich literary heritage at the turn of the century is highlighted in the Indiana Historical Society exhibition, The Golden Age: Indiana Literature, 1880-1920, opening July 2, 2015 through July 29, 2015 in the lobby of the Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center at 275 N. Jordan Ave on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington.

The Monroe County History Center is sponsoring this exhibit to celebrate Indiana Festival Theatre’s production of Booth Tarkington’s The Gentleman From Indiana, which opens in the Wells-Metz Theatre on Saturday, July 11th and alternates with performances of William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It through July 25th.

Drawn from collections at the IHS, Indiana State Library and Indiana University’s Lilly Library, the exhibition explores what came to be known as the “Golden Age of Indiana Literature,” a time period in which Hoosier authors achieved both national prominence and popular acclaim. The exhibition examines some of the many writers who contributed to the state’s literary golden age, but concentrates on the lives and careers of four individuals who loomed large during this Golden Ageperiod – George Ade, Meredith Nicholson, Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley.

Indiana writers in the late 19th and early 20th century catered to readers who preferred writing that idealized traditional values or offered escape from an ever-changing world. A 1947 study found that Hoosier authors ranked second to New York in the number of best-sellers produced in the previous 40 years.

From the local color poetry of Riley; the historical romances of Lew Wallace, Maurice Thompson and Charles Major; the humor of Ade and Kin Hubbard; the fantasy of George Barr McCutcheon; the nature writing of Gene Stratton-Porter; the grim realism of Theodore Dreiser; and the mild realism of Tarkington and Nicholson, Hoosier authors worked in a variety of writing styles. Many of these writers’ works were printed by an Indianapolis publishing firm, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. By 1915 the firm had produced 26 titles that made the annual lists of top ten best-sellers, a mark surpassing any other publisher in the country during this period.

The lustrous Golden Age of Indiana literature began to fade as changes in America’s economic and social order accelerated after World War I. Traditional values, simple pleasures, nostalgia and romance were less important to a postwar society preoccupied with business prosperity and such technological advances as the automobile, radio and motion pictures. Through the years, however, Indiana authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Jean Sheperd, Dan Wakefield and others have kept alive the Hoosier state’s literary tradition.

THIS IS A FREE EXHIBIT! The Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center lobby is a public IU facility and visitors may view the exhibit any time the lobby is open, seven days a week.

TICKETS for The Gentleman From Indiana: Regular admission is $25 for adults, $15 for students, $20 for seniors.  For more information, call 812.855.1103 or visit  theatre.indiana.edu. For group discounts contact Stacy Brown (staabrow@indiana.edu).

For interviews and additional production information, contact Amy Osajima at aosajima@indiana.edu


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