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Thornton Wilder 1897-1975 “That an American of the present day can create with such delicacy and detachment touches the soul like a miracle. Here is quiet.

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Presentation on theme: "Thornton Wilder 1897-1975 “That an American of the present day can create with such delicacy and detachment touches the soul like a miracle. Here is quiet."— Presentation transcript:

1 Thornton Wilder “That an American of the present day can create with such delicacy and detachment touches the soul like a miracle. Here is quiet originality that comes from within.” –Albert Einstein, in a letter to Thornton Wilder

2 Born in Madison, Wisconsin Born in Madison, Wisconsin Dad: a U.S. diplomat Dad: a U.S. diplomat One older brother One older brother A twin brother who died at birth A twin brother who died at birth Three sisters Three sisters

3 Because of his father’s career, Wilder and his siblings spent much of their childhood in China. Because of his father’s career, Wilder and his siblings spent much of their childhood in China.

4 Education/Early Years Studied law two years at Berkeley in California Studied law two years at Berkeley in California Served in the U.S. Coast Guard in WWI Served in the U.S. Coast Guard in WWI Graduated in 1920 from Yale Graduated in 1920 from Yale Earned Master’s degree in French from Princeton in 1926 Earned Master’s degree in French from Princeton in 1926

5 EARLY SUCCESSES 1926—1 st novel: The Cabala 1926—1 st novel: The Cabala 1927: 2 nd novel: 1927: 2 nd novel: The Bridge of San Luis Rey -a commercial success -1 st Pulitzer prize; …This allowed him to quit teaching to focus on his writing; kept company with other literary greats such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, etc.

6 1930’s-’40s : taught at the University of Chicago : taught at the University of Chicago Life-long interests: music & teaching (besides writing) Life-long interests: music & teaching (besides writing) : member of Army Air Force Intelligence, stationed in No. Africa & Italy : member of Army Air Force Intelligence, stationed in No. Africa & Italy.

7 1938: the play, Our Town 1938: the play, Our Town won Pulitzer Prize for Drama … one of the most performed plays of the 20th century. plays of the 20th century. …Wilder played the stage manager at one point, himself.

8 Only Noted Criticism Criticisms of the play: “escapist fare” – avoided social & political problems of the day; …but his object was to help his audiences dream of better times; presents Grover’s Corners in a celebratory fashion rather than a totally realistic manner; he does present the vice as well as the virtue, but doesn’t dwell on buried secrets, hypocrisy, or social injustice that lurks beneath small-town Amer. Criticisms of the play: “escapist fare” – avoided social & political problems of the day; …but his object was to help his audiences dream of better times; presents Grover’s Corners in a celebratory fashion rather than a totally realistic manner; he does present the vice as well as the virtue, but doesn’t dwell on buried secrets, hypocrisy, or social injustice that lurks beneath small-town Amer.

9 Significance of Publication Date Pub. Date: 1938 – significant because of the tremendous national & international tension (WWII on the horizon, Great Depression, etc.) Pub. Date: 1938 – significant because of the tremendous national & international tension (WWII on the horizon, Great Depression, etc.) Our Town directed attention away from the negative aspects of life in the late 1930’s. Our Town directed attention away from the negative aspects of life in the late 1930’s. Principal message: appreciate the details & interactions of everyday life while you’re alive Principal message: appreciate the details & interactions of everyday life while you’re alive

10 1942: the play, The Skin of our Teeth opened 1942: the play, The Skin of our Teeth opened It won him It won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1943.

11 Lieutenant Col. In the Army Air Force in WWII Wilder, shown here, is inspecting bomb damage in London in September 1941.

12 After WWII Visiting professor at University of Hawaii Visiting professor at University of Hawaii Taught poetry at Harvard Taught poetry at Harvard

13 He considered himself a TEACHER first, and a WRITER second, but he continued writing all his life. He considered himself a TEACHER first, and a WRITER second, but he continued writing all his life.

14 1955: the play, The Matchmaker, later became the basis for the hit musical, Hello, Dolly 1955: the play, The Matchmaker, later became the basis for the hit musical, Hello, Dolly

15 Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in : His last novel, Theophilus North, was published 1975: His last novel, Theophilus North, was published

16 Record of His Death He died in his sleep at his home in Hamden, Connecticut on Dec. 7, He died in his sleep at his home in Hamden, Connecticut on Dec. 7, 1975.

17 On April 17, 1997, the U.S. Post Office issued a Thornton Wilder Commemorative Stamp. On April 17, 1997, the U.S. Post Office issued a Thornton Wilder Commemorative Stamp.

18 Thornton Wilder is the only American writer to have received Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and drama. Thornton Wilder is the only American writer to have received Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and drama. Our Town remains one of the most produced plays celebrating the precious nature of ordinary moments in ordinary lives. Our Town remains one of the most produced plays celebrating the precious nature of ordinary moments in ordinary lives. Last Word on Wilder…


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