ARCHIVE FOR Ellen Litman
The Question of Greatness
Back when I was an MFA student, my classmate and friend Keith Gessen wrote a fascinating article for The Boston Globe. It was about William Dean Howells and a little bit about Henry James. In 1912, William Dean Howells was declared “the greatest living American writer and novelist.” Ninety years later, he was expelled from "The Norton Anthology of American Literature." How could such a thing happen
November 4, 2014 | Ellen Litman
It happens every semester in my undergraduate classes: We’d be discussing a student’s story, usually something featuring a child protagonist, and someone would say, “It’s about the loss of innocence.” The phrase is always uttered in a sad, wistful tone that implies that the loss of innocence is a terrible thing. I usually ask what’s so wonderful about the damn innocence. Or I just wince. Or threaten to veto the silly expression altogether, except I keep forgetting to add this particular prohibition to my syllabus.