Event—Public Programming

Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis

Liesl Olson

Liesl Olson

Liesl Olson

Listen to an audio recording of this program.

This remarkable cultural history celebrates the great Midwestern city of Chicago for its centrality to the modernist movement. Author Liesl Olson traces Chicago’s cultural development from the 1893 World’s Fair through mid century, illuminating how Chicago writers revolutionized literary forms during the first half of the twentieth century, a period of sweeping aesthetic transformations all over the world. From Harriet Monroe, Carl Sandburg, and Ernest Hemingway to Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks, Olson’s enthralling study bridges the gap between two distinct and equally vital Chicago-based artistic “renaissance” moments: the primarily white renaissance of the early teens, and the creative ferment of Bronzeville. Stories of the famous and iconoclastic are interwoven with accounts of lesser-known yet influential figures in Chicago, many of whom were women. Olson argues for the importance of Chicago’s editors, bookstore owners, tastemakers, and ordinary citizens who helped nurture Chicago’s unique culture of artistic experimentation.

After her talk, Dr. Olson will sign copies of the book; Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis will be available for purchase in the Newberry Bookstore. Your purchase helps to support the Newberry Library and this program's featured author.

Download a PDF flyer for this program to post and distribute, and explore related Newberry materials with our Collection Quick Guide on the Chicago Renaissance.

Liesl Olson is director of a new program in Chicago Studies at the Newberry Library. She is the author of Modernism and the Ordinary (2009) and many essays about twentieth-century writers and artists.

Your generosity is vital in keeping the library's programs, exhibitions, and reading rooms free and accessible to everyone. Make a donation today.