Rediscovering Muriel Rukeyser - Plymouth Literature Festival

Ocean Studios

Sunday 29 October 2017
14:00 - 15:00
Admission Fee: £5

‘…she has experienced a continual burial and recovery. She has been alternately denigrated and admired for being an avant-garde and radical poet, a feminist, a theorist, an activist; for being sexually liberated and a single mother. She has been viewed from both sides of the critical establishment as being either too aesthetically experimental or not aesthetically rigorous enough, as too radical or insufficiently Marxist.’ - Rowena Kennedy Epstein, Paris Review.

Dedicated ‘to the causes of the underdog’, Muriel Rukeyser was unapologetically outspoken through her literary writing. A politically-engaged radical and optimistic feminist, Rukeyser would articulate the seismic events of the twentieth century in five decades of writing: American racial inequality, protests against the Vietnam War and the Civil War in Spain.

In 1936, Rukeyser travelled to Spain at the age of 22. A young journalist, she had travelled to Barcelona to document the People’s Olympiad, an alternative to the Berlin Olympic Games during Nazi regime. A few days before the opening ceremony, however, the Nationalists staged a coup on the Republican government. Civil War broke out. As the sudden and unexpected witness, Rukeyser wrote.

Alongside an archive of poetry from this time Rukeyser wrote her war novel, Savage Coast, which she began immediately upon her return from Spain. A dazzling introspective narrative within the reality of a country’s division, Rukeyser’s novel was written before either Orwell’s or Hemingway’s narratives on Spanish Civil War. The novel remained unpublished and largely unknown until Rowena Kennedy-Epstein rediscovered the last existing draft at the Library of Congress, Washington. Rowena edited the manuscript, originally rejected from Rukeyser’s publishing house who found her female protagonist ‘too abnormal for us to respect.’ In 2013, Rowena was successful in publishing Savage Coast through Feminist Press – the first publication of Rukeyser’s only existing novel, a dazzling introspective narrative within the reality of Civil War. Through the work of writers such as Rowena, recognition is being returned to literary canons such as the one belonging to Muriel Rukeyser. Rowena Kennedy-Epstein is currently based in Bristol, and will be sharing her tales of Rukeyser and how research led to the rediscovery of long lost words…

The Weekend Pass is available for all access to Ocean Studios Literature Festival events (excluding workshops), including Rowena's talk. Purchase and find out more by clicking here or by enquiring in person.

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