10 episodes

In this monthly series, co-hosts Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Zakiya Dalila Harris discuss the professional feuds, sex scandals, messy public breakups, and controversial legacies of history’s literary legends and how those are relevant in light of current culture, issues, discussions and literature. By bringing these authors to life through a modern lens, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of their work and legacies.

Dead Writer Drama Unknown

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    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

In this monthly series, co-hosts Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Zakiya Dalila Harris discuss the professional feuds, sex scandals, messy public breakups, and controversial legacies of history’s literary legends and how those are relevant in light of current culture, issues, discussions and literature. By bringing these authors to life through a modern lens, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of their work and legacies.

    Episode 10: Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Episode 10: Nathaniel Hawthorne

    In this episode, co-host Jennifer and guest co-host Allison discuss the life and work of American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the nation's most revered authors. They are joined by writer and magician Dale Salwak, author of the recent book The Life of the Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne, the first major Hawthorne biography to be published in two decades, featuring original scholarship on both unpublished and published sources.



    About The Life of the Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne



    The Life of the Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne presents a rich and nuanced portrait of one of America’s greatest writers, exploring the thoughts and ideas of a man whose profound insights about the human condition continue to resonate in the modern day. Accessible to those with little knowledge of Hawthorne, this unique volume uses a new biographical approach based on exhaustive primary research that provides readers with a better understanding of the artist and his work.



    Author Dale Salwak challenges the presumption that Hawthorne was a reclusive, eccentric, and alienated man whose relevance to modern times is diminishing. Drawing from his forty-five years’ experience reading, studying, and teaching Hawthorne, the author reveals a more approachable Hawthorne. In-depth and reflective chapters explore topics such as the circumstances that led Hawthorne to become a writer, the influence of Sophia Hawthorne on her husband’s work, the theory of the unfulfilled homoerotic relationship between Hawthorne and Herman Melville, and more.



    Highlighting Hawthorne’s special contributions to American literature, The Life of the Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne is essential reading for scholars, lecturers, and college students taking courses including Literary History, American Literature, and History of the Novel as well as anyone interested in biography, literature, and creativity.



    Dale Salwak is a professor of English at southern California's Citrus College and a recipient of Purdue University's Distinguished Alumni Award as well as a National Defense Education Act fellowship from the University of Southern California where he earned his Ph.D. He is the author of numerous books, including Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist and Carl Sandburg: A Reference Guide, and the editor of The Wonders of Solitude, Anne Tyler as Novelist (Iowa, 1994), Philip Larkin: The Man and His Work (Iowa, 1989), and The Life and Work of Barbara Pym (Iowa, 1987).



    About the hosts: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia and her new book When Women Invented Television. Allison Sansone is the Program Director at the American Writers Museum.



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    • 41 min
    Episode 9: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

    Episode 9: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

    In this episode, co-hosts Jennifer and Zakiya discuss the life and work of American writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel The Yearling. They are joined by writer Ann McCutchan, author of the recent book The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.



    About The Life She Wished to Live:



    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a tough, ambitious, and independent woman who refused the conventions of her early-twentieth-century upbringing. Determined to forge a literary career beyond those limitations, she found her voice in the remote, hardscrabble life of Cross Creek, Florida. There, Rawlings purchased a commercial orange grove and discovered a fascinating world out of which to write―and a dialect of the poor, swampland community that the literary world had yet to hear. She employed her sensitive eye, sharp ear for dialogue, and philosophical spirit to bring to life this unknown corner of America in vivid, tender detail. Her accomplishments came at a price: a failed first marriage, financial instability, a contentious libel suit, alcoholism, and physical and emotional upheaval.



    With intimate access to Rawlings’s correspondence and revealing early writings, Ann McCutchan uncovers a larger-than-life woman who writes passionately and with verve, whose emotions change on a dime, and who drinks to excess, smokes, swears, and even occasionally joins in on an alligator hunt. The Life She Wished to Live paints a lively portrait of Rawlings, her contemporaries―including her legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins, and friends Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald―and the Florida landscape and people that inspired her.



    Ann McCutchan is the author of six books, most recently The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of The Yearling, released in 2021 by W.W. Norton. As well, she is a busy lyricist and librettist, with eight commissioned works, including The Dreamer, an opera based on an original story with composer Mark Alan Taggart, premiered online by the East Carolina University Opera Studio in 2021. Her personal essays have appeared in various journals and The Best American Spiritual Writing.



    About the hosts: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia and her new book When Women Invented Television. Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, The Other Black Girl, is a New York Times bestseller and is available from Atria Books in the US, and Bloomsbury Books in the UK.



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    • 48 min
    Episode 8: Nellie Bly

    Episode 8: Nellie Bly

    In this episode, co-hosts Jennifer and Zakiya discuss the life and work of pioneering investigative journalist Nellie Bly with novelist Louisa Treger, author of Madwoman, a spellbinding historical novel based on the true story of Nellie Bly.



    Nellie Bly was a journalist, inventor, charity worker and adventurer who was most famous for two things. First, her trip around the world in 72 days in homage to Jules Verne's character Phileas Fogg. And second for her reporting from within a New York mental institution, which pioneered the practice of undercover investigative journalism.



    About Madwoman:



    In 1887, young Nellie Bly sets out for New York and a career in journalism, determined to make her way as a serious reporter, whatever that may take. But life in the city is tougher than she imagined. Down to her last dime and desperate to prove her worth, she comes up with a dangerous plan: to fake insanity and have herself committed to the asylum on Blackwell's Island. There, she will work undercover to expose the asylum's wretched conditions. But when the asylum door swings shut behind her, she finds herself in a place of horrors, governed by a cruelty she could never have imagined. Cold, isolated and starving, her days of terror reawaken the traumatic events of her childhood. She entered the asylum of her own free will - but will she ever get out?



    An extraordinary portrait of a woman ahead of her time, Madwoman is the story of a quest for the truth that changed the world.



    Louisa Treger has worked as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher. Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a Ph.D. in English at University College London, where she focused on early 20th century women’s writing and was awarded the West Scholarship and the Rosa Morison Scholarship "for distinguished work in the study of English Language and Literature." She is the author of The Lodger (2014), The Dragon Lady (2019), Madwoman (2022), and she is currently working on her fourth novel.



    About the hosts: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia and her new book When Women Invented Television. Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, The Other Black Girl, is a New York Times bestseller and is available from Atria Books in the US, and Bloomsbury Books in the UK.



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    • 37 min
    Episode 7: Lorraine Hansberry

    Episode 7: Lorraine Hansberry

    This episode of Dead Writer Drama was recorded live at the American Writers Festival on May 15, 2022 with special guest Soyica Diggs Colbert, author of Radical Vision: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry. Hosted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Zakiya Dalila Harris.



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    • 53 min
    Episode 6: Nora Ephron

    Episode 6: Nora Ephron

    In this episode, co-hosts Jennifer and Zakiya discuss the life and work of prolific, multi-talented—and dramatic—writer Nora Ephron with pop culture journalist Erin Carlson, author of I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy.



    Nora Ephron was a journalist, screenwriter, essayist, playwright, filmmaker, and blogger perhaps best known for writing classic romantic comedy films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and more.



    Erin Carlson is a journalist who has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter and The Associated Press as an editor and reporter. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Glamour, Fortune and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She’s the author of two critically acclaimed Hollywood histories, I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy and Queen Meryl. She holds a masters in journalism from Northwestern, and has been profiled in The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle.



    About the hosts: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia and her new book When Women Invented Television. Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, The Other Black Girl, is a New York Times bestseller and is available from Atria Books in the US, and Bloomsbury Books in the UK.



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    • 1 hr 18 min
    Episode 5: Pauli Murray

    Episode 5: Pauli Murray

    This month, co-hosts Jennifer and Zakiya discuss the incredible life and work of Pauli Murray with Barbara Lau, Executive Director of the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.



    Pauli Murray lived one of the most remarkable lives of the twentieth century. She was the first Black person to earn a JSD degree from Yale Law School, a founder of the National Organization for Women and the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.



    Pauli Murray’s legal arguments and interpretation of the US Constitution were winning strategies for public school desegregation, women’s rights in the workplace, and an extension of rights to LGBTQ+ people based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.



    The American Writers Museum presents this podcast as a small preview of its upcoming exhibit and content initiative, Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice. This initiative will launch in stages across 2022 and takes its name from Pauli Murray’s amazing poem, Dark Testament as both her work and her story are fundamental example of the continual resonance of the powerful writing from black writers from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era that still reflect and shape the world today.



    About the hosts: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia and her new book When Women Invented Television. Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, The Other Black Girl, is a New York Times bestseller and is available from Atria Books in the US, and Bloomsbury Books in the UK.



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    • 50 min

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