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Kate Chopin

A Critical Biography

by Per Seyersted

Southern Literary Studies

252 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

Literature - American

  Paperback / 9780807106785 / April 1980

Kate Chopin was a nationally acclaimed short story artist of the local color school when she in 1899 shocked the American reading public with The Awakening, a novel which much remembles Madame Bovary. Though the critics praised the artistic excellence of the book, it was generally condemned for its objective treatment of the sensuous, independent heroine. Deeply hurt by the sensure, Mrs. Chopin wrote little more, and she was soon forgotten.

For decades the few critics who remembered her concentrated on the regional aspects of her work. In theLiterary History of the United States, where Kate Chopin is highly praised as a local colorist, The Awakening is not even mentioned. In recent years, however, a few critics have given new attention to the novel, emphasizing its courageous realism.

In the present book, Mr. Seyersted carries out an extensive re-examination of both the life and work of the author, basing it on her total oeuvre. Much new Kate Chopin material, such as previously unknown stories, letters, and a diary, has recently come to light. We can now see that she was a much more ambitious and purposeful writer than we have hitherto known. From the beginning, her special theme was female self-assertion. As each new success increased her self-confidence, she grew more and more daring in her descriptions of emancipated woman who wants to dictate her own life.

Mr. Seyersted traces the author’s growth as an artist and as a pnentrating interpreter of the female condition, and shows how her career culminated in The Awakening and the unknown story ‘The Storm.’ With these works, which were decades ahead of their time, Kate Chopin takes her place among the important American realist writers of the 1890's.

Per Seyersted also published in 1969 Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography, which remains in print. He lived 1921-2005 and was a professor of American literature at the University of Oslo.

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