Jason Stacy

Aug 5, 2022

Spoon River America

Edgar Lee Masters and the Myth of the American Small Town

University of Illinois Press 2021

A literary and cultural milestone, Spoon River Anthology captured an idea of the rural Midwest that became a bedrock myth of life in small-town America. Jason Stacy places the book within the atmosphere of its time and follows its progress as the poetry took root and thrived. Published by Edgar Lee Masters in 1915, Spoon River America: Edgar Lee Masters and the Myth of the American Small Town (U Illinois Press, 2021) won praise from modernists while becoming an ongoing touchstone for American popular culture. Stacy charts the ways readers embraced, debated, and reshaped Masters’s work in literary controversies and culture war skirmishes; in films and other media that over time saw the small town as idyllic then conflicted then surreal; and as the source of three archetypes—populist, elite, and exile—that endure across the landscape of American culture in the twenty-first century.

A wide-ranging reconsideration of a literary landmark, Spoon River America tells the story of how a Midwesterner's poetry helped change a nation's conception of itself.

Jason Stacy is a professor of history and social science pedagogy at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He is the author of Walt Whitman's Multitudes: Labor Reform and Persona in Whitman’s Journalism and the First Leaves of Grass, 1840–1855 and editor of Leaves of Grass, 1860: The 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition.

Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics, found at https://fifteenminutefilm.podbean.com/ and on Twitter @15MinFilm.

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Daniel Moran

Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics (Twitter @15MinFilm).

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