WRAC Professor Nancy Bunge has just published her 6th book titled The Midwestern Novel: Literary Populism from Huckleberry Finn to the Present.
“My book establishes the field of the Midwestern Novel…[It] also uses a new approach. Literary books usually cover a handful of authors and focus on a defined theme. This book covers thirty authors, 130 years and a number of themes. It involved a lot more primary research than the usual literary book. I read all the secondary material, but I used only what seemed crucial. Most literary books respond primarily to other criticism and I definitely didn’t do that partly because getting into all the literary debates around these books and authors in any detail would make the book incoherent,” said Nancy.
She also discussed her desire for the book to demonstrate that there is a way to go about defining Midwestern novels, arguing that these books have specific characteristics that set them apart as a genre and a field of study. She said, “People don’t realize that there have been more Nobel prize winners for literature from the Midwest than from any other region and that authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Louise Erdrich, Charles Baxter, Jim Harrison, Saul Bellow and Langston Hughes are all Midwesterners.”
Nancy’s research and fascination with Midwestern literature began in 1971. “My inspiration probably came from a dinner party in Baltimore where someone said all the interesting people in the country lived on the periphery of the United States. I erupted,” she said.
Nancy even continued on to teach Midwestern literature as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Vienna. Yet, when she proposed the subject as a course at MSU, where the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature is held and where she currently teaches, Nancy was turned down because she couldn’t define the meaning as opposed to the reference of the term “Midwestern”. Nancy has been reading, thinking, writing and publishing about Midwestern literature on her own time, which has totaled to roughly 42 years. The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature will honor her with the MidAmerica Award in June for her contributions to the study of Midwestern literature..
“I definitely think the book accomplishes what I set out to do,” said Nancy. Hopefully, as a result of all her research and hard work, a definition can finally be applied to Midwestern Novel as a genre and a course instated at MSU!
For more about Nancy’s book, it is available at McFarland.