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New Territory for Kansas Literature

American literary history is full of rich regional traditions and The New Territory magazine is adding a new one: the Lower Midwest. This is a region that includes “the states of and around Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska” with people bound together by similarities in geography, language, and social movements.  Tina Casagrand Foss and The New Territory have been helping to platform its literary voice and place this literary identity alongside Southern Gothic, the Mountain West, and the coastal scenes.

Now, Casagrand Foss is leading a project that spotlights the literary identity of Kansans with “Literary Landscapes in Kansas: From the Ground to the Airwaves.” The project is supported by an HK Humanities for All grant.

“The goal is to show how literature is all around us—not just in the books we read, but on our walk down a main street, or as we cross the railroad tracks, or in the river tucked behind that stand of trees. The stories we tell about our region and about ourselves are in our backyards as well as our historical sites, relevant to our experiences today as much as for the times they were written.”

The Literary Landscapes essay series was first proposed by The New Territory editor Andy Oler in pre-pandemic times, and it took off from there, featuring place-based essays from writers across the Lower Midwest. Now in 2024, in partnership with High Plains Public Radio in Garden City, a special Literary Landscapes series features Kansas literature. Selected essays written by contemporary Kansans (or writers with Kansas connections) will be published in The New Territory, with excerpts aired on the radio. These stories focus on the self-identity of Kansas writers and their relationship to the land, the past, and the future of the region. Rosemary Hope writes of the time Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee came to her family’s home in Garden City for Christmas dinner. Poet Laureate of Kansas Traci Brimhall recounts a day spent in the Flint Hills with Kansas Poet Lariat Ron Wilson. Read these essays and more on the website.Event Poster

In addition to stories that will be published in print, online, and broadcast over the airwaves, Casagrand Foss and her team are planning the “Literary Landscapes Gathering” on July 27 at 4:00 p.m. at the Union Hall in Manhattan. This symposium-style event (“but more approachable”) will feature public readings and a panel about literary culture in Kansas.

Literary Landscapes stories began airing on High Plains Public Radio in May. More information about the series can be found at The New Territory website.Hope House

Hope family home, Garden City, 1960s. Image courtesy of The New Territory.

Read a excerpt from the essay “Truman Capote” by Rosemary Hope featured
on the Literary Landscapes website

This is the story of my house and the foursome who gathered for dinner Christmas Day 1959: Truman Capote, Nelle Harper Lee, and my parents, Dolores and Clifford Hope Jr.

It was at the beginning of Truman’s seven or so years of entanglement with Kansas for In Cold Blood, his 1965 nonfiction novel chronicling the murders of the Herbert Clutter family and the prosecution of their killers. Herb, his wife Bonnie, and teenaged children Nancy and Kenyon had been killed by gunshot in the early hours of November 15, 1959.

Truman and his childhood friend Nelle came by train from New York a few weeks later: Truman to cover the murders for The New Yorker and Nelle to help with reporting.

My father was Herb Clutter’s lawyer. Shortly after Truman and Nelle’s arrival, Daddy and the estate’s administrator opened the doors to the crime scene, a tidy farmhouse outside Holcomb, Kansas, five miles west of Garden City. Truman sniffed about while Nelle took notes.

Otherwise, the pair did not get much help from the community throughout December. Truman, a flamboyant, pushy, gay man, was puzzling to townsfolk and stymied by local press and law enforcement.

He and Nelle faced Christmas alone at the Warren Hotel in Garden City. Until my mother issued an invitation.

“Come at one,” my mother said. “Make it two,” Truman replied.

Read the rest of the story on the Literary Landscapes website!

Join the Movement of Ideas

  • VISIT the Literary Landscapes website to read essays and listen to stories about the places of Kansas in literature. 
  • ATTEND the Literary Landscapes Gathering on July 27 in Manhattan. The event is free and open to the public.
  • TALK about Kansas literature with one of the TALK book discussions series: “The Kansas Experience” and “Literature with Kansas Connections.” TALK book discussions bring Kansans together for engaging discussions over good books.

  • EXPLORE the Map of Kansas Literature, featuring towns, cities, and locations in Kansas linked with Kansas authors and poets. Created by the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn University.

  • SAVE THE DATE for the Kansas Book Festival on September 28, 2024 , at Washburn University in Topeka. This free event includes 50 authors, outdoor performances, a book-art exhibit, food trucks, and exhibitors.


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