Author Biographies 8

Author Biographies 8

Heloise dArgenteuilHeloise d’Argenteuil


Heloise d’Argenteuil (1101?-May 16, 1164) was a French nun, writer, scholar and abbess, best known for her love affair and correspondence with Peter Abelard.

Heloise was a brilliant scholar of Latin, Greek and Hebrew and had a reputation for intelligence and insight. Abelard writes that she was nominatissima, “most renowned,” for her gift in reading and writing. Not a great deal is known of her immediate family except that in her letters she implies she is of a lower social standing than was Abelard, who was originally from the nobility, though he had rejected knighthood to be a philosopher.

What is known is that she was the ward of an uncle, a canon in Paris named Fulbert. By some point in her life, she became the student of Pierre Abelard (Peter Abelard), who was one of the most popular teachers and philosophers in Paris.

In his writings, Abelard tells the story of his seduction of Heloise and their subsequent illicit relationship, which they continued until Heloise bore him a son, whom Heloise named Astrolabius (Astrolabe). Abelard secretly married Heloise, but both of them tried to conceal this fact in order not to damage Abelard’s career. Fulbert’s ensuing violence against Heloise caused Abelard to place her in the convent of Argenteuil.

The accepted view is that Fulbert believed Abelard abandoned Heloise and, in his anger, wreaked vengeance upon Abelard by having him attacked while asleep and castrated. After castration, Abelard became a monk.

At the convent in Argenteuil, Heloise took the habit and eventually became prioress. She and the other nuns were turned out when the convent was taken over by the abbey at which Abelard had first taken his monastic vows. At this point, Abelard arranged for them to enter the Oratory of the Paraclete, an abbey he had established, where Heloise became abbess.

About this time, correspondence began between the two former lovers. After Abelard left the Paraclete, fleeing persecution, he wrote his Historia Calamitatum, explaining his tribulations both in his youth as a philosopher only and subsequently as a monk. Heloise responded, both on the behalf of the Paraclete and herself. In letters that followed, Heloise expressed dismay at problems Abelard faced but scolded him for years of silence following the attack upon him, since Abelard was still wed to Heloise.

Thus began a correspondence both passionate and erudite. Heloise encouraged Abelard in his philosophical work and he dedicated his profession of faith to her.

The Problemata Heloissae (Heloise’s Problems) is a collection of 42 theological questions directed from Heloise to Abelard at the time when she was abbess at the Paraclete, and his answers to them.


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Charlotte DacreCharlotte Dacre


Charlotte Dacre (1782-1841) was an English author of Gothic novels. Most references to her today are under the name Charlotte Dacre, but she first wrote under the pseudonym Rosa Matilda, and later adopted a second pseudonym to tease and confuse her critics.

She was the daughter of John King, born Jacob Rey (c. 1753-1824), a moneylender and radical writer well known in London society. Her father divorced her mother, Sara, nee Lara, under Jewish law in 1784 before setting up home with the dowager countess of Lanesborough.

In 1806, after the death of his wife, Charlotte Dacre married Nicholas Byrne, with whom she already had three children. He was an editor and future partner of London’s The Morning Post newspaper, where the poet Mary Robinson was the poetry editor and an influence on a young Charlotte Dacre, who began her writing career by contributing poems to The Morning Post under the pseudonym “Rosa Matilda.”

Of her four major novels, Zofloya is the most well known today and sold well on its release in 1806.


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Roald DahlRoald Dahl


Wing Commander Roald Dahl (September 13, 1916-November 23, 1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, fighter pilot and screenwriter.

Born in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, to Norwegian parents, he served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence agent, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and became one of the world’s bestselling authors.

His short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children’s books for their unsentimental, often very dark humor. Some of his better-known works include: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, The Witches and The Big Friendly Giant.

Roald Dahl died on November 23, 1990, at the age of 74 of a blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford.


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Caroline Healey DallCaroline Dall


Caroline Wells Healey Dall (1822-1912) was an American feminist writer, Transcendentalist and reformer. She was affiliated with the National Women’s Rights Convention, the New England Women’s Club and the American Social Science Association. Her associates included Elizabeth Peabody and Margaret Fuller.

Dall was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and lived there off and on during her life. She married Charles Dall; children included William Healey Dall.


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Richard Henry DanaRichard Henry Dana


Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815-January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years before the Mast. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves.

Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 1, 1815, into a family that had settled in colonial America in 1640, counting Anne Bradstreet among its ancestors. His father was the poet and critic Richard Henry Dana Sr. As a boy, Dana studied in Cambridgeport under a strict schoolmaster named Samuel Barrett, alongside fellow Cambridge native and future writer James Russell Lowell. Barrett was infamous as a disciplinarian who punished his students for any infraction by flogging. He also often pulled students by their ears and, on one such occasion, nearly pulled Dana’s ear off, causing the boy’s father to protest enough that the practice was abolished.

In 1825, Dana enrolled in a private school overseen by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Dana later mildly praised as “a very pleasant instructor,” though he lacked a “system or discipline enough to insure regular and vigorous study.” In July 1831, Dana enrolled at Harvard College, where in his freshman year his support of a student protest cost him a six-month suspension. In his junior year, he contracted measles, which in his case led to ophthalmia.

Fatefully, the worsening vision inspired him to take a sea voyage. But rather than going on a fashionable Grand Tour of Europe, he decided to enlist as a merchant seaman, despite his high-class birth. On August 14, 1834, he departed Boston aboard the brig Pilgrim bound for Alta, California, at that time still a part of Mexico. This voyage would bring Dana to a number of settlements in California (including Monterey, San Pedro, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and San Francisco). After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed that he would try to help improve the lot of the common seaman. The Pilgrim collected hides for shipment to Boston, and Dana spent much of his time in California curing hides and loading them onto the ship. To return home sooner, he was reassigned by the ship’s owners to a different ship, the Alert, and on September 22, 1836, Dana arrived back in Massachusetts.

He thereupon enrolled at Harvard Law School. He graduated in 1837 and was admitted to the bar in 1840. He went on to specialize in maritime law, writing The Seaman’s Friend in 1841 – which became a standard reference on the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors – and defending many common seamen in court.

He had kept a diary during his voyages and, in 1840 (coinciding with his admission to the bar), he published a memoir, Two Years before the Mast. With the California Gold Rush later in the decade, Two Years before the Mast would become highly sought after as one of the few sources of information about California.

He became a prominent abolitionist, helping to found the anti-slavery Free Soil Party in 1848 and representing the fugitive slave, Anthony Burns, in Boston in 1854.

In 1859, while the U.S. Senate was considering whether the United States should try to annex the Spanish possession of Cuba, Dana traveled there and visited Havana, a sugar plantation, a bullfight and various churches, hospitals, schools and prisons, a trip documented in his book, To Cuba and Back.

During the American Civil War, Dana served as a U.S. attorney and successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the U.S. Government could rightfully blockade Confederate ports. During 1867-1868 Dana was a member of the Massachusetts legislature and also served as a U.S. counsel in the trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Dana died of influenza in Rome and is buried in that city’s Protestant Cemetery.,_Jr.

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Tsitsi DangarembgaTsitsi Dangarembga


Tsitsi Dangarembga (born 1959) is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker.

Dangarembga was born in Mutoko, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in 1959 but spent part of her childhood in England. She began her education there, but concluded her A-levels in a missionary school in the Rhodesian town of Umtali (now Mutare). She later studied medicine at Cambridge University but returned home soon after Zimbabwe was internationally recognized in 1980.

She took up psychology at the University of Zimbabwe, of whose drama group she was a member. She also held down a two-year job as a copywriter at a marketing agency. This early writing experience gave her an avenue for expression: She wrote numerous plays, such as The Lost of the Soil, and then joined the theatre group Zambuko and participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa and Mavambo.

In 1985, Dangarembga published a short story in Sweden. “The Letter.” In 1987, she also published the play, She Does Not Weep in Harare. At the age of 25, she had her first taste of success with her novel, Nervous Conditions.

Dangarembga continued her education later in Berlin at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie, where she studied film direction and produced several film productions, including a documentary for German television. She also made the film, Everyone’s Child, shown worldwide, including at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.


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Samuel DanielSamuel Daniel


The son of a music teacher, Samuel Daniel was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. In 1585, he worked for the English ambassador in Paris before going to Italy. On his return, he was employed as tutor to William Herbert, the future Earl of Pembroke, and then to Lady Anne Clifford at Skipton Castle in Yorkshire. In 1603, he wrote A Panegyric Congratulatory on James I’s Accession and, the following year, he gained a place at court.

Daniel’s first book, Delia, was praised by Edmund Spenser in his Colin Clouts Come Home Again. He went on to become a successful court poet, writing occasional verses and dramatic entertainments. In 1604, Queen Anne commissioned a masque from him, The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, and took part in the performance. Later that year, he was in trouble for his tragedy, Philotas, which was thought to represent the Earl of Essex’s 1600 rebellion in a sympathetic light. Daniel prefaced the printed version of the play with an “Apology” and was restored to favor.

Toward the end of his life, he retired to his farm in Somerset.


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Edwidge DanticatEdwidge Danticat


Edwidge Danticat (born January 19, 1969) is a Haitian-American author.

Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When she was two years old, her father Andre immigrated to New York, to be followed two years later by her mother, Rose. This left Danticat and her younger brother, Eliab, to be raised by her aunt and uncle. Although her formal education in Haiti was in French, she spoke Kreyol at home.

While still in Haiti, Danticat wrote her first short story about a girl who was visited by a clan of women each night. At the age of 12, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, to join her parents in a heavily Haitian-American neighborhood. As she was an immigrant teenager, Edwidge’s accent and upbringing were a source of discomfort for her; thus, she turned to literature for solace.

Two years later she published her first writing, in English, “A Haitian-American Christmas: Cremace and Creole Theatre,” in New Youth Connections, a citywide magazine written by teenagers. She later wrote a story about her immigration experience for New Youth Connections, “A New World Full of Strangers.”

After graduating from Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, New York, Danticat entered Barnard College in New York City. Initially she had intended to study to become a teacher, but her love of writing won out and she received a B.A. in French literature. In 1993, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Brown University – her thesis, titled “My Turn in the Fire: An Abridged Novel,” was the basis for her novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was published in 1994.

Since completing her MFA, Danticat has taught creative writing at both New York University and the University of Miami. Her short stories have appeared in more than 25 periodicals and have been anthologized several times.


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Charles DarwinCharles Darwin


Charles Robert Darwin (February 12, 1809-April 19, 1882) was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.

He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species. By the 1870s the scientific community and much of the general public accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favored competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

Darwin’s early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas. Publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.

Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations and, in 1838, conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin’s work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871, he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books and, in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

He died at Down House on April 19, 1882. He had expected to be buried in St. Mary’s churchyard at Downe but, at the request of Darwin’s colleagues, after public and parliamentary petitioning, William Spottiswoode, president of the Royal Society, arranged for Darwin to be honored by a major ceremonial funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey.


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Sir John DaviesSir John Davies


Sir John Davies was born at Tisbury, Wiltshire, where he was christened on April 16, 1569, third son of Mary and of John. In 1580, he was sent to school at Winchester. He entered The Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1585. Leaving Oxford a year and a half later, he proceeded to read law first at the New Inn and then at the Middle Temple from 1588 onward. The Epigrammes were written perhaps around 1590, the year Davies’ mother passed away.

Davies wrote “Orchestra, or a Poem of Dancing, Judicially proving the true observation of time and measure in the authentical and laudable use of dancing” in early 1594. In 1595, Davies was called to the bar and started his legal career. “Orchestra” was published in 1596, his contemporaries seeing it as a “frivolous poem.”

Gulling Sonnets, mocking Petrarchan conventions in Elizabethan sonnets, were published in 1597. In 1599, Davies published his great philosophical poem, “Nosce Teipsum” (“Know Thyself”). Queen Elizabeth I was an admirer of Davies’ work and, in the same year, Davies addressed to her his Hymns of Astraea, acrostic poems, all of which spelled out “Elizabetha Regina.”

Davies went on to have a brilliant legal career. In 1601, he was elected MP for Corfe Castle, Dorset, and sat in the Queen’s last parliament. Davies was one of the men chosen to accompany Lord Hunsdon in announcing the succession to James VI of Scotland. When Davies was announced to the king, the king presently asked “whether he were Nosce Teipsum,” and, hearing that he was, the king “embraced him and conceived a considerable liking for him.” The king’s further favor was shown by Davies’ appointment in November of the same year, 1603, to be Solicitor General for Ireland when he was knighted.

A founding member of the Society of Antiquaries, Davies’ other literary works include: Gullinge Sonnets (c. 1596), Ten Sonnets to Philomel (1602), Yet Other Twelve Wonders of the World (c. 1602), “A Lottery” (1602) and “A Contention betwixt a Wife, a Widow and a Maid” (1602).


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Jack DavisJack Davis


Jack Davis (1917-March 17, 2000) was a notable Australian 20th century playwright and poet, also an Indigenous rights campaigner. He was born in Western Australia, in the small town of Yarloop, and lived in Fremantle toward the end of his life. He was of the Aboriginal Noongar people and much of his work dealt with the Australian Aboriginal experience. He has been referred to as the 20th century’s Aboriginal Poet Laureate and many of his plays are on Australian school syllabuses.

Davis was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1976 and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1985.


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Rebecca Harding DavisRebecca Harding Davis


Rebecca Blaine Harding Davis (born Rebecca Blaine Harding, 1831-1910) was an American author and journalist. She is deemed a pioneer of literary Realism in American literature. Her most important literary work is the novella, Life in the Iron Mills, published in the April 1861 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Throughout her lifetime, Davis sought to effect social change for blacks, women, Native Americans, immigrants and the working class by intentionally writing about the plight of these marginalized groups in the 19th century.

Davis was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, on June 24, 1831, to Richard and Rachel Leet Wilson Harding. After an unsuccessful entrepreneurial spell in Big Spring, Alabama, the family finally settled in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1836. Wheeling’s rapid transformation into a factory town in the first half of the 19th century profoundly affected the themes and the vision of Davis’ later fiction.

When she was 14, she was sent back to Washington, Pennsylvania, to attend the Washington Female Seminary, from which she graduated as class valedictorian in 1848. After returning to Wheeling, she joined the staff of the local newspaper, The Intelligencer, submitting reviews, stories, poems, editorials and also serving briefly as an editor in 1859.

Life in the Iron Mills, published in The Atlantic Monthly in April 1861, is regarded by many critics as a pioneering document marking the transition from Romanticism to Realism in American literature. The successful publication of the short story also provided her with acclaim in the literary circles of her time.

On her journey back from a meeting with her publisher, James Thomas Fields, she met L. Clarke Davis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whom she married on March 5, 1863. The following year she gave birth to their first son, Richard Harding Davis, who was to become a writer and journalist himself. Their second son, Charles Belmont, was born in 1866; their daughter, Nora, in 1872.

From 1869 onward, Davis was a regular contributing editor to The New York Tribune and The New York Independent. In 1889, however, she resigned from The Tribune in order to protest editorial censorship of her articles.

On September 29, 1910, Rebecca Harding Davis died of a stroke at her son Richard’s house in Mt. Kisco, New York.


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Simone de BeauvoirSimone de Beauvoir


Simone Ernestine Lucie Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908-April 14, 1986), was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, political activist, feminist theorist and social theorist. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography in several volumes and monographs on philosophy, politics and social issues. She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise, The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

Beauvoir was born in Paris. After passing baccalaureate exams in mathematics and philosophy in 1925, she studied mathematics at the Institut Catholique and literature/languages at the Institut Sainte-Marie. She then studied philosophy at the Sorbonne.

Beauvoir published her first novel, She Came to Stay, in 1943. This was followed by many others, including The Blood of Others, which explores the nature of individual responsibility.

In 1944, Beauvoir wrote her first philosophical essay, “Pyrrhus et Cineas,” a discussion of existentialist ethics. She continued her exploration of existentialism through her second essay, “The Ethics of Ambiguity” (1947), which confronts the existentialist dilemma of absolute freedom vs. the constraints of circumstance.

Chapters of Le deuxieme sexe (The Second Sex) were originally published in Les Temps modernes, in June 1949. The second volume came a few months after the first in France. It was very quickly published in America as The Second Sex.

Beauvoir wrote popular travel diaries about her travels in the United States and China, and published essays and fiction rigorously, especially throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She published several volumes of short stories, including The Woman Destroyed, which, like some of her other later work, deals with aging. In 1980, she published When Things of the Spirit Come First, a set of short stories centered around and based upon women important to her earlier years. Beauvoir also notably wrote a four-volume autobiography, consisting of: Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter; The Prime of Life; Force of Circumstance; and All Said and Done. Her 1970 long essay, “La Vieillesse” (“The Coming of Age”), is a rare instance of an intellectual meditation on the decline and solitude all humans experience if they do not die before about age 60.

Beauvoir died of pneumonia in Paris, aged 78.


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St. Jean De CrevecoeurJ. Hector St. John de Crevecouer


Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecouer (December 31, 1735-November 12, 1813), naturalized in New York as John Hector St. John, was a French-American writer. He was born in Caen, Normandy, France, to the Comte and Comtesse de Crevecouer.

In 1755, he immigrated to New France in North America. There, he served in the French and Indian War as a surveyor in the French Colonial Militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Following the British defeat of the French Army in 1759, he moved to New York State, then the Province of New York, where he took out citizenship, adopted the English-American name of John Hector St. John and, in 1770, married an American woman, Mehitable Tippet. He bought a sizable farm in Orange County, New York, where he prospered as a farmer. He started writing about life in the American colonies and the emergence of an American society.

In 1782, in London, he published a volume of narrative essays, Letters from an American Farmer. The book quickly became the first literary success by an American author in Europe and turned Crevecouer into a celebrated figure. He was the first writer to describe to Europeans – employing many American English terms – life on the American frontier and to explore the concept of the American Dream, portraying American society as characterized by the principles of equal opportunity and self-determination.

He was in France visiting his father when the United States had been recognized by Britain following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Crevecouer returned to New York City soon afterward. Anxious to be reunited with his family, he learned that his wife had died, his farm had been destroyed and his children had been taken in by neighbors. Eventually, he was able to regain custody of his children. For most of the 1780s, Crevecouer lived in New York City. The success of his book in France had led to his being taken up by an influential circle, and he was appointed the French consul for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Particularly concerned about the condition of slaves, he joined the Societe des Amis des Noirs (Society of the Friends of the Blacks), founded in Paris.

In 1789, during a stay in France, he was trapped by the political upheaval that was quickly turning into the French Revolution. At risk as an aristocrat, he went into hiding, while secretly trying to gain passage to the United States. In 1794, he was finally granted the necessary papers by James Monroe, the new U.S. ambassador to France.

At the end of his life, Crevecouer returned to France and settled permanently on land he inherited from his father. On November 12, 1813, he died in Sarcelles, Val d’Oise, France.


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Marie de FranceMarie de France


Marie de France (“Mary of France”) was a medieval poet who was probably born in France and lived in England during the late 12th century. She lived and wrote at an undisclosed court, but was almost certainly at least known about at the royal court of King Henry II of England. Virtually nothing is known of her life; both her given name and its geographical specification come from her manuscripts, though one contemporary reference to her work and popularity remains.

Marie de France wrote a form of Anglo-Norman French and was evidently proficient in Latin and English as well. She is the author of the Lais of Marie de France. She translated Aesop’s Fables from Middle English into Anglo-Norman French and wrote Espurgatoire seint Partiz, Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick, based upon a Latin text. Recently she has been (tentatively) identified as the author of a saint’s life, The Life of Saint Audrey.

The actual name of the author known to us as Marie de France is unknown; she has acquired this nom de plume from a line in one of her published works: “Marie ai num, si sui de France,” which translates as “My name is Marie, and I am from France.” Some of the most commonly proposed suggestions for the identity of this 12th century poet are: Marie, Abbess of Shaftesbury and half-sister to Henry II, King of England; Marie, Abbess of Reading; Marie I of Boulogne; Marie, Abbess of Barking; and Marie de Meulan, wife of Hugh Talbot.

Scholars have dated Marie’s works to between about 1160 and 1215, these being the earliest and latest possible dates, respectively. It is probable that the Lais were written in the late 12th century; they are dedicated to a “noble king,” usually assumed to be Henry II of England, or possibly his eldest son, Henry the Young King.

It is likely that Marie de France was known at the court of King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. A contemporary of Marie, the English poet Denis Piramus, mentions in his Life of Saint Edmund the King, written in around 1180, the lais of a Marie that were popular in aristocratic circles.


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Madame de La FayetteMadame de Lafayette


Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de La Fayette (baptized March 18, 1634-May 25, 1693), better known as Madame de La Fayette, was a French writer, the author of La Princesse de Cleves, France’s first historical novel and one of the earliest novels in literature.

She was born in Paris to a family of minor but wealthy nobility. At 16, de la Vergne became the maid of honor to Queen Anne of Austria and began also to acquire a literary education from Gilles Menage, who gave her lessons in Italian and Latin. Menage would lead her to join the fashionable salons of Madame de Rambouillet and Madeleine de Scudery. Her father, Marc Pioche de la Vergne, had died a year before, and the same year her mother married Renaud de Sevigne, uncle of Madame de Sevigne, who would remain her lifelong intimate friend.

In 1655, de la Vergne married Francois Motier, comte de La Fayette, a widowed nobleman some 18 years her senior, with whom she would have two sons. She accompanied him to country estates in Auvergne and Bourbonnais, although she made frequent trips back to Paris, where she began to mix with court society and formed her own successful salon. Some of her acquaintances included Henrietta of England, future Duchess of Orleans, who asked La Fayette to write her biography; Antoine Arnauld; and the leading French writers, Segrais and Huet. Earlier on, during the Fronde, La Fayette had also befriended the Cardinal de Retz.

Settling permanently in Paris in 1659, La Fayette published, anonymously, La Princesse de Montpensier in 1662. From 1665 onward she formed a close relationship with Francois de La Rochefoucauld, author of Maximes, who introduced her to many literary luminaries of the time, including Racine and Boileau. The year 1669 saw the publication of the first volume of Zaide, a Hispano-Moorish romance that was signed by Segrais but is almost certainly attributable to La Fayette. The second volume appeared in 1671.

La Fayette’s most famous novel was La Princesse de Cleves, first published anonymously in March 1678. An immense success, the work is often taken to be the first true French novel and a prototype of the early psychological novel.

The death of La Rochefoucauld in 1680 and her husband in 1683 led La Fayette to lead a less active social life in her later years. Three works were published posthumously: La Comtesse de Tende (1718), Histoire d’Henriette d’Angleterre (1720) and Memoires de la Cour de France (1731).


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Thomas de QuinceyThomas de Quincey


Thomas Penson de Quincey (August 15, 1785-December 8, 1859) was an English essayist, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).

De Quincey was born in 86 Cross Street, Manchester, England. In 1800, De Quincey, aged 15, was ready for the University of Oxford; his scholarship was far in advance of his years. He was sent to Manchester Grammar School in order that after three years’ stay he might obtain a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, but he took flight after 19 months.

From July to November 1802, De Quincey lived as a wayfarer. He borrowed some money and traveled to London, where he tried to borrow more. Having failed, he lived close to starvation rather than return to his family.

Discovered by chance by his friends, De Quincey was brought home and finally allowed to go to Worcester College, Oxford, on a reduced income. During this time he began to take opium. He completed his studies but failed to take the oral examination leading to a degree; he left the university without graduating. He became an acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, having already sought out Charles Lamb in London. His acquaintance with Wordsworth led to his settling in 1809 at Grasmere, in the Lake District. His home for 10 years was Dove Cottage. De Quincey was married in 1816 and soon after, having no money left, he took up literary work in earnest.

In 1821, he went to London to dispose of some translations from German authors, but was persuaded first to write and publish an account of his opium experiences, which that year appeared in The London Magazine. The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater were soon published in book form. From this time on, De Quincey maintained himself by contributing to various magazines. He soon exchanged London and the Lakes for Edinburgh, the nearby village of Polton and Glasgow; he spent the remainder of his life in Scotland. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and its rival, Tait’s Magazine, received a large number of contributions. “Suspiria de Profundis” (1845) appeared in Blackwood’s, as did “The English Mail-Coach” (1849). “Joan of Arc” (1847) was published in Tait’s. Between 1835 and 1849, Tait’s published a series of De Quincey’s reminiscences of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Robert Southey and other figures among the Lake Poets – a series that taken together constitutes one of his most important works.

De Quincey was oppressed by debt for most of his adult life; along with his opium addiction, debt was one of the primary constraints of his existence. He pursued journalism as the one way available to him to pay his bills.

He died in Edinburgh and is buried in St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard.


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Alexis de TocquevilleAlexis de Tocqueville


Alexis-Charles-Henri Clerel de Tocqueville (July 29, 1805, Paris-April 16, 1859, Cannes) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (1835-1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856).

An eminent representative of the classical liberal political tradition, Tocqueville was an active participant in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830-1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849-1851) that succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s December 2, 1851 coup and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I.

A longtime sufferer from bouts of tuberculosis, Tocqueville would eventually succumb to the disease on April 16, 1859.


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Chretien de TroyesChretien de Troyes


Chretien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvere who flourished in the late 12th century. Perhaps he named himself Christian of Troyes in contrast to the illustrious Rashi, also of Troyes. Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes, or at least intimately connected with it, and between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness, Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps as herald-at-arms. His work on Arthurian subjects represents some of the best-regarded of medieval literature. His use of structure, particular in “Yvain, the Knight of the Lion,” has been seen as a step toward the modern novel.

Troyes’ works include five major poems in rhyming eight-syllable couplets. Four of these are complete: “Erec and Enide” (c. 1170); “Cliges” (c. 1176); “Yvain, the Knight of the Lion”; and “Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart.” The latter two were written simultaneously between 1177 and 1181. His final romance was “Perceval, the Story of the Grail,” written between 1181 and 1190, but left unfinished, though some scholars have disputed this. It is dedicated to Philip, Count of Flanders, to whom Troyes may have been attached in his last years. He finished only 9,000 lines of the work, but four successors of varying talents added 54,000 additional lines in what are known as the “Four Continuations.” Similarly, the last 1,000 lines of “Lancelot” were written by Godefroi de Leigni, apparently by arrangement with Troyes. In the case of “Perceval,” one continuer says the poet’s death prevented him from completing the work; in the case of “Lancelot,” no reason is given. This has not stopped speculation that Troyes did not approve of “Lancelot’s” adulterous subject.

To him are also attributed two lesser works: The pious romance, “Guillaume d’Angleterre,” and “Philomela,” the only one of his four poems based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses that has survived.

Troyes’ works are written in vernacular Old French, although it is marked by traits of the regional Champenois dialect.


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Edward de VereEdward de Vere (Earl of Oxford)


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was born on April 12, 1550, at Castle Hedingham in Essex. Because his father died when he was a minor, the new earl became a royal ward. The wardship system involved his lands being used by the crown for its own profit, although ostensibly to the ward’s benefit. He received legal training at Gray’s Inn after having attended Queen’s College, Cambridge, and was awarded Master of Arts degrees by Oxford and Cambridge universities. In 1571, at the age of 21, Lord Edward regained control of his estates and married Anne Cecil, daughter of Lord Burghley, for 40 years the Queen’s Principal Secretary of State and later Lord Treasurer, in whose house he had been placed for his education during his minority.

De Vere was, in his earlier years, a favorite at court, where he seems to have mostly lived when young. At 25, he undertook a tour of France, Germany and Italy in 1575 and was abroad for some 16 months. The Earl flirted with Catholicism but in late 1580 he denounced a group of Catholic friends to the Queen, accusing them of treasonous activities and asking her mercy for his own, now repudiated, Catholicism. He was retained under house arrest for a short time and was briefly in the Tower of London.

De Vere’s poetry first appeared in the 1576 publication of The Paradise of Dainty Devices, then in The Arte of English Poetrie (1589), The Phoenix Nest (1593), England’s Helicon (1600) and England’s Parnassus (1600). De Vere was also active as a dramatist at this time, though none of his masques and plays survive.

He died in June 1604, probably from plague, at King’s Place in Hackney, located in the London suburb of Stratford.


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Daniel DefoeDaniel Defoe


Daniel Defoe was the first of the great 18th century English novelists. He wrote more than 500 books, pamphlets, articles and poems.

Little is known about the birth and early childhood of Defoe, as no baptism record exists for him. It is likely that he was born in London, England, in 1659. He had early thoughts of becoming a Presbyterian minister and, in the 1670s, he attended the Reverend Charles Morton’s famous academy near London.

In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, who brought him the handsome dowry of 3,700 pounds. They had seven children. Defoe participated briefly in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, a Protestant uprising, but escaped capture and punishment. From 1685 through 1692 he engaged in trade in London as a wholesale hosiery agent, an importer of wine and tobacco and part owner and insurer of ships.

Defoe evidently did business with King William III (1650-1702). He suffered losses from underwriting marine insurance for the king and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1692. Although he settled with the people to whom he owed money in 1693, he faced the threat of bankruptcy throughout his life and faced imprisonment for debt and libel seven times.

Defoe published hundreds of political and social documents between 1704 and 1719. His interests and activities reflect the major social, political, economic and literary trends of his age. His first major work, “An Essay upon Projects” (1697), proposed ways of providing better roads, insurance and education.

In 1701, Defoe published “The True-Born Englishman,” the most widely sold poem in English up to that time. Although Defoe’s “The Shortest Way with the Dissenters” (1702), which ridiculed the harshness of the Church of England, led to his arrest, the popularity of his “Hymn to the Pillory” (1703) indicated the favor that he had found with the London public.

At the age of 59, after a full career as businessman, government servant, political pamphleteer and journalist, Defoe began a career as novelist. In 1719, Defoe published his most lasting work, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. The success of the story inspired Defoe to write The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe later in 1719 and Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures in 1720. That year he published another travel novel, The Life, Adventures and Pyracies of the Famous Captain Singleton. In January 1722, he published The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, probably the most successful of his novels.

“A Journal of the Plague Year,” issued in March 1722, presented a picture of life in London during the Great Plague of 1665; it was thought to be history rather than fiction for more than 100 years. His third novel, The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Col. Jacque, was published in December 1722.

Although he continued to write, only a few of Defoe’s later works are worthy of note: The Complete English Tradesman (1725), The Political History of the Devil (1726), A New Family Instructor (1727) and Augusta Triumphans (1728), which was Defoe’s plan to make “London the most flourishing City in the Universe.”

Daniel Defoe died at age 71 on April 24, 1731, outside of London, England.


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Thomas DekkerThomas Dekker


Of Dekker’s life, nothing is known for certain before 1598, when his name appears in entries in Philip Henslowe’s Diary. Even though Dekker had a steady stream of work with Henslowe, he was frequently in debt. He was imprisoned for debt briefly in the Poultry Counter in 1599, and by the King’s Bench, 1613-1619.

Dekker was a prolific writer, having part in some 50 plays over his career – only 20 of these, as well as some masques, have survived. The earliest of these is Old Fortunatus (1598?). The second play, his most well-known, and his masterpiece, is The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599). Other plays include: The Whore of Babylon (c. 1606), If It Be Not Good the Devil Is in It (c. 1610) and The Wonder of a Kingdom (1636).

Of Dekker’s numerous collaborations, the most notable include Westward Ho (1604), The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyatt (c. 1604) and Northward Ho (c. 1605) with John Webster; The Honest Whore, Part I (1604) and The Roaring Girl (1610) with Thomas Middleton; The Virgin Martyr (1620) with Philip Massinger; The Witch of Edmonton (c. 1621) with John Ford and William Rowley; and Patient Grissel (1600) with Henry Chettle and William Haughton.

Dekker was also accomplished as a prose writer. The moralizing tone occasionally apparent in his dramatic works is obvious in his many pamphlets. “The Wonderful Year” (1603) relates the effects of the plague on London. “The Seven Deadly Sins of London” (1606) offers a lively description of daily life in London and the temporary victory of the seven deadly sins. “The Bellman of London” (1608) is an expose on the criminal underbelly of the city. “Lantern and Candlelight” (1608), a description of low life, was Dekker’s biggest publishing success. The Gull’s Horn-Book (1609), a parody of courtesy books, gives satiric instructions on how to conduct oneself in playhouses and taverns. The Four Birds of Noah’s Ark (1609) is a collection of prayers.

Dekker was buried on August 25, 1632 at St. James’ Parish, Clerkenwell.


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Martin Robison DelanyMartin Robison Delaney


Martin Robison Delany (May 6, 1812-January 24, 1885) was an African-American abolitionist and arguably the first proponent of American black nationalism. He became the first African-American field officer in the U.S. Army during the American Civil War.

Delany was born a free black man in Charles Town, West Virginia (then part of Virginia) to Pati and Samuel Delany. His father Samuel was a slave but his mother was a Gullah (Angolan) chieftain, while his maternal grandparents were born in Niger and of Mandika ethnicity. When Delany was just a few years old, attempts were made to enslave him and a sibling. Their mother carried her two youngest children 20 miles to the courthouse in Winchester to argue successfully for her family’s freedom.

As he was growing up, Delany and his siblings learned to read and write using The New York Primer and Spelling Book, given to them by a peddler. It was illegal in Virginia to teach black people literacy. When the book was discovered in September 1822, Pati took her children to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to ensure their continued freedom. They had to leave their father, but a year later he managed to buy his freedom and rejoined his family in Chambersburg.

In Chambersburg, the young Delany continued learning. Occasionally he left school to work when his family could not afford to pay for his education. In 1831, at the age of 19, he journeyed west to the growing city of Pittsburgh, where he became a barber and laborer. On arrival in Pittsburgh, Delany became a student of the Rev. Lewis Woodson of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wylie Street. Shortly after, he began attending Jefferson College, where he was taught classics, Latin and Greek by Molliston M. Clark.

While in Pittsburgh, Delany began writing about public issues. In 1843, he began publishing The Mystery, a black-controlled newspaper. His articles and other writings were often reprinted in other venues, such as in abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator. While Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were in Pittsburgh in 1847 on an anti-slavery tour, they met with Delany. Together, the men conceived the newspaper that became The North Star.

In 1863, after Abraham Lincoln had called for a military draft, Delany began recruiting black men for the Union Army. His efforts in Rhode Island, Connecticut and later Ohio raised thousands of enlistees, many of whom joined the newly formed U.S. Colored Troops. In early 1865, Delany proposed a corps of black men led by black officers who could serve to win over Southern blacks.

Delany was commissioned as a major a few weeks later, becoming the first black line field officer in the U.S. Army and achieving the highest rank an African-American would reach during the Civil War. After the war, he remained with the Army and served under General Rufus Saxton in the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops. He was later transferred to the Freedman’s Bureau, serving on Hilton Head, South Carolina. He shocked white officers with his strong call for the right of freed blacks to own land. Later in 1865, he was mustered out of the Freedman’s Bureau and shortly afterward resigned from the Army.

Following the war, Delany continued to be politically active. He worked to help black cotton farmers improve their business and negotiating skills to get a better price for their product.

On January 25, 1885, he died of tuberculosis.


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Don DeLilloDon DeLillo


Don DeLillo (born Nov. 20, 1936, New York, New York) is an American novelist whose postmodernist works portray the anomie of an America cosseted by material excess and stupefied by empty mass culture and politics.

After his graduation from Fordham University, New York City (1958), DeLillo worked for several years as a copywriter at an advertising agency. DeLillo’s first novel, Americana (1971), is the story of a network television executive in search of the “real” America. It was followed by End Zone (1972) and Great Jones Street (1973). Ratner’s Star (1976) attracted critical attention with its baroque comic sense and verbal facility.

Beginning with Players (1977), DeLillo’s vision turned darker, and his characters became more willful in their destructiveness and ignorance. Critics found little to like in the novel’s protagonists but much to admire in DeLillo’s elliptical prose. The thrillers Running Dog (1978) and The Names (1982) followed. White Noise (1985), which won the American Book Award for fiction, tells of a professor of Hitler studies who is exposed to an “airborne toxic event;” he discovers that his wife is taking an experimental substance said to combat the fear of death, and he vows to obtain the drug for himself at any cost. In Libra (1988), DeLillo presented a fictional portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Mao II (1991) opens with a mass wedding officiated by cult leader Sun Myung Moon. It tells the story of a reclusive writer who becomes enmeshed in a world of political violence.

DeLillo’s later works of fiction include Underworld (1997), which provides a commentary on American history in the second half of the 20th century by tracing the journeys of a baseball, as well as Cosmopolis (2003), set largely in a billionaire’s limousine as it moves across Manhattan, and Falling Man (2007), which tells the story of a survivor of the September 11 attacks in 2001.


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Rene DescartesRene Descartes


Rene Descartes (March 31, 1596-February 11, 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy” and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system – allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes, in a 2D coordinate system – was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.

Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine, Indre-et-Loire, France. At the age of eight, he entered the Jesuit College Royal Henry-Le-Grand at La Fleche. After graduation in December 1616, he studied at the University of Poitiers, earning a Baccalaureat and Licence in law.

In 1618, Descartes was engaged in the army of Maurice of Nassau in the Dutch Republic but, as a truce had been established between Holland and Spain, Descartes used his spare time to study mathematics. In this way he became acquainted with Isaac Beeckman, principal of Dordrecht school. Beeckman had proposed a difficult mathematical problem and, to his astonishment, it was the young Descartes who found the solution. Both believed that it was necessary to create a method that thoroughly linked mathematics and physics.

In 1622, he returned to France and, during the next few years, spent time in Paris and other parts of Europe. It was during a stay in Paris that he composed his first essay on method: “Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii” (“Rules for the Direction of the Mind”). He arrived in La Haye in 1623, selling all of his property to invest in bonds, which provided a comfortable income for the rest of his life.

He returned to the Dutch Republic in 1628, where he lived until September 1649. He wrote all of his major work during his 20-plus years in the Netherlands, where he managed to revolutionize mathematics and philosophy. In 1633, Galileo was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and Descartes abandoned plans to publish Treatise on the World, his work of the previous four years. Nevertheless, in 1637 he published part of this work in three essays: “Les Meteores” (“The Meteors”), “La Dioptrique” (“Dioptrics”) and “La Geometrie” (“Geometry”), preceded by an introduction, his famous “Discours de la Metode” (“Discourse on the Method”).

In 1641, he published a metaphysics work, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (Meditations on First Philosophy). It was followed, in 1644, by Principia Philosophiae (Principles of Philosophy). In 1649, he published Les Passions des ame (Passions of the Soul).

Rene Descartes died on February 11, 1650 in Stockholm, Sweden, where he had been invited as a tutor for Queen Christina of Sweden. The cause of death was said to be pneumonia


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John DeweyJohn Dewey


John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont, on October 20, 1859. An unremarkable student at school, his performance improved rapidly at the University of Vermont and in 1878 he graduated second in his class.

After university, Dewey taught classics, algebra and science in a school in Pennsylvania before moving to a private school in Charlotte. Encouraged by his mentor, H.A. Torrey, Dewey became a student of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. After completing his doctorate in 1884, Dewey found work as a teacher in Michigan.

In 1894, Dewey joined the staff of the University of Chicago as head of its new department of philosophy, psychology and pedagogy. Dewy became interested in social problems and was influenced by the ideas of the radical writer, Henry George. He also became friends with those social reformers based at Hull House, such as Jane Addams, Mary White Ovington and Alice Hamilton.

After World War I, Dewey studied education in Japan and China. He also carried out research in Turkey (1924), Mexico (1926) and the Soviet Union (1928). He wrote several books about education and philosophy, including Moral Principles in Education (1909), Interest and Effort in Education (1913), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Experience and Nature (1925) and The Quest for Certainty (1929).

In his books, Dewey outlined his views of how education could improve society. The founder of what became known as the progressive education movement, Dewey argued that it was the job of education to encourage individuals to develop their full potential as human beings. He was especially critical of the rote learning of facts in schools and argued that children should learn by experience. In this way students would not just gain knowledge but would also develop skills, habits and attitudes necessary for them to solve a wide variety of problems.

Dewey was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union. Dewey also joined the League for Independent Political Action. The group, which included Lewis Mumford and Archibald MacLeish, promoted alternatives to a capitalist system they considered to be obsolete and cruel.

Dewey retired from teaching in 1929 and his later years were mainly spent writing. Books from this period include: The Quest for Certainty (1929), Philosophy and Civilization (1931), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Experience and Education (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939) and Public Schools and Spiritual Values (1944).

In 1947, Dewey headed the commission investigating the charges against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials. Later that year he published his conclusions in the book, Not Guilty.

John Dewey died on June 1, 1952.


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Junot DiazJunot Diaz


Junot Diaz (born December 31, 1968) is a Dominican-American writer and creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Central to Diaz’s work is the immigrant experience. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in 2008.

Diaz was born in Villa Juana, a neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Throughout most of his early childhood, he lived with his mother and grandparents while his father worked in the United States. Diaz emigrated to Parlin, New Jersey, in December 1974, where he was re-united with his father.

He attended Madison Park Elementary and was a voracious reader, often walking four miles in order to borrow books from his public library. He graduated from Cedar Ridge High School in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey, in 1987, then attended Kean College in Union, New Jersey, for one year before transferring and ultimately completing his B.A. at Rutgers College in 1992.

After graduating from Rutgers, he was employed at Rutgers University Press as an editorial assistant. He earned his MFA from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 1995, where he wrote most of his first collection of short stories. Currently, Diaz teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing and is also the fiction editor for The Boston Review.

His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker magazine. He has also been published in Story, The Paris Review and four times in the anthology series, The Best American Short Stories (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000), The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories (2009) and African Voices. He is best known for his two major works: The short story collection, Drown (1996) and the novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). Both were published to critical acclaim.


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Philip K DickPhilip K. Dick


Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928-March 2, 1982) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered states. In his later works, Dick’s thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS.

The novel, The Man in the High Castle, bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a novel about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975.

In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, 10 of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Minority Report,” “Paycheck,” “Next,” “Screamers” and “The Adjustment Bureau.” In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the 100 greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

On February 17, 1982, after completing an interview, Dick contacted his therapist complaining of failing eyesight and was advised to go to a hospital immediately – but he didn’t go. The next day he was found unconscious on the floor of his Santa Ana, California, home after suffering a stroke. In the hospital, he suffered another stroke after which his brain activity ceased. Five days later, on March 2, 1982, he was disconnected from life support and died.


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Charles DickensCharles Dickens


Charles John Huffam Dickens (February 7, 1812-June 9, 1870) was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters.

Many of his writings were originally published serially, in monthly installments, a format of publication that Dickens himself helped popularize. Unlike other authors who completed novels before serialization, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialized. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next installment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.


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James DickeyJames Dickey


James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923-January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1966.

Dickey was born to lawyer, Eugene Dickey, and Maibelle Swift in Atlanta, Georgia, where he attended North Fulton High School in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. In 1942, he enrolled at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina and played on the football team as a tailback. After one semester, he left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Dickey served with the U.S. Army Air Forces as a radar operator in a night fighter squadron during World War II and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Between the wars, he attended Vanderbilt University, graduating with degrees in English and philosophy, as well as minoring in astronomy. He also taught at the University of Florida.

From 1950 to 1954, Dickey taught at Rice University (then Rice Institute) in Houston. While teaching freshman composition at Rice, Dickey returned for a two-year Air Force stint in Korea, and went back to teaching. He then worked for several years in advertising, most notably writing copy and helping direct creative work on the Coca-Cola and Lay’s Potato Chips campaigns. He once said he embarked on his advertising career in order to “make some bucks.”

He returned to poetry in 1960 and his first book, Into the Stone and Other Poems, was published in 1960. Drowning with Others was published in 1962, which led to a Guggenheim fellowship. Buckdancer’s Choice earned him a National Book Award in 1965. Among his better-known poems are: “The Performance,” “Cherrylog Road,” “The Firebombing,” “May Day Sermon,” “Falling” and “For the Last Wolverine.”

After being named a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress, he published his first volume of collected poems, Poems 1957-1967, in 1967. This volume may represent Dickey’s best work – and he accepted a position of Professor of English and writer-in-residence at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. The poet was invited to read his poem, “The Strength of Fields,” at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977.

James Dickey died on January 19, 1997, six days after his last class at the University of South Carolina, where from 1968 he taught as poet-in-residence. Dickey spent his last years in and out of hospitals, afflicted first with jaundice and later fibrosis of the lungs. He also suffered from alcoholism.


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Emily DickinsonEmily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, in western Massachusetts, and died there on May 15, 1886. Her parents were Edward Dickinson (1803-1874) and Emily Norcross Dickinson (1804-1882). The family included three children: Austin (1828-1895), Emily and Lavinia (1833-1899). Most of the family belonged to the Congregational Church, though the poet herself never became a member. The Dickinsons were well-off and well-educated. Both Edward and Austin were college graduates, leaders in the community and of Amherst College. Edward Dickinson was a Whig (later a Republican) representative to state and national legislatures. Emily had a strong secondary education and a year of college at South Hadley Female Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College).

Dickinson was born in, and died in, a house called the Homestead, built by her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, in 1813. This house was sold out of the family, however, in 1833, and not re-purchased by Edward Dickinson until 1855, so most of the poet’s younger years were lived in other houses.

After her years at school, Dickinson lived in the family home for the rest of her life. She cared for her parents in their later years and was a companion to her sister Lavinia, who also stayed “at home” for her entire life. Neither sister married. The extended Dickinson family included Austin’s wife, Susan Huntington Gilbert, who lived for many years next door in the house called The Evergreens, and Susan and Austin’s three children.

The myth, of course, is of Dickinson as a reclusive spinster-poet, brooding over a deep romantic mystery in her past. The realities are more mundane. Especially among relatively wealthy families in 19th century Massachusetts, it was far from unusual for grown women simply to keep house as a primary occupation, neither marrying nor working outside the home. The thing that sets Dickinson apart from other women of her class and generation is simply her poetic gift, something attributable more to nature and culture than to some emotional trauma.

We know much of Dickinson’s life through her correspondences. She maintained a lifelong correspondence with Susan Dickinson, even though they were next-door neighbors; this correspondence, preserved by Susan, is the source for many of the poet’s manuscripts. But Dickinson also corresponded with school friends, with her cousins Fanny and Loo Norcross, and with several people of letters, including Samuel Bowles, Dr. and Mrs. J.G. Holland, T.W. Higginson and Helen Hunt Jackson.

The central events, then, of Dickinson’s life are those that are central to the lives of most writers: She wrote. She compiled a manuscript record of nearly 1,800 poems, along with many letters. In or around 1858, she began to keep manuscript books of her poetry, the “fascicles,” hand-produced and hand-bound. In the early 1860s, she produced hundreds of poems each year. In 1864 and 1865, failing eyesight, which impelled her to make two extended visits to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for medical treatment, slowed her production of manuscript books. But her production of manuscripts continued at a slower pace until her last illnesses in 1885-86.

Though she wrote hundreds of poems, Dickinson never published a book of poetry. The few poems published during her lifetime were anonymous. The reasons why she never published are still unclear. A myth promoted by William Luce’s play, The Belle of Amherst (1976), is that Higginson discouraged her writing; however, it is probably not the case that Dickinson met with rejection from the literary world. For one thing, Higginson was instrumental in getting her poetry published soon after her death, suggesting that her reluctance and not his disapproval was the barrier to him doing this earlier. Also, both Bowles and Hunt Jackson arranged for anonymous publication of individual poems by Dickinson during the poet’s lifetime. At Hunt Jackson’s suggestion, Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers publishing house tried to get the poet to submit a volume of poems for publication in 1883; she declined.


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Joan DidionJoan Didion


Joan Didion, born December 5, 1934, in Sacramento, California, is a novelist and essayist. Her writing explores disorder and personal and social unrest.

Her first novel was published in 1963; later novels include: Play It as It Lays (1970), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984) and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Her essay collections, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), are perceptive, clear-eyed analyses of American culture. With her husband, John Gregory Dunne, she has written a number of screenplays, including A Star Is Born (1976). Her later works of nonfiction include Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003) and The Year of Magical Thinking (2005).


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Karen Blixen-Isak DinesenIsak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)


Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (April 17, 1885-September 7, 1962) was a Danish author also known by her pen name, Isak Dinesen.

In 1913, Karen Dinesen became engaged to her second-cousin, the Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, after a failed love affair with his brother. The couple moved to Kenya where, in early 1914, they used family money to establish a coffee plantation, hiring African workers, predominantly the Kikuyu tribes people who lived on the farmlands at the time of their arrival. The Blixens separated in 1921 and were divorced in 1925.

During her early years in Kenya, Blixen met the English big-game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton, and after her separation she and Finch Hatton developed a close friendship that eventually became a long-term love affair. Finch Hatton used Blixen’s farmhouse as a home base between 1926 and 1931, when he wasn’t leading one of his clients on safari. He died in the crash of his de Havilland Gipsy Moth biplane in 1931. At the same time, the failure of the coffee plantation, as a result of the worldwide economic depression and the unsuitability of her farm’s soil for coffee growing, forced Blixen to abandon her beloved farm. Blixen returned to Denmark, where she lived for the rest of her life.

On returning to Denmark, Blixen began writing in earnest. Her first book, Seven Gothic Tales, was published in the U.S. in 1934 under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen. Her second book, now the best-known of her works, was Out of Africa, published in 1937. During World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, Blixen started her only full-length novel, the introspective tale, The Angelic Avengers, under another pseudonym, Pierre Andrezel; it was published in 1944.

Her writing during most of the 1940s and 1950s consisted of tales in the storytelling tradition. The most famous were “Babette’s Feast” and “The Immortal Story.”

Although it was widely believed that syphilis plagued Blixen throughout her lifetime, extensive tests were unable to reveal evidence of syphilis in her system after 1925. She did suffer a mild permanent loss of sensation in her legs that could be attributed to chronic use of arsenic in Africa.

During the 1950s, Blixen’s health quickly deteriorated and, in 1955, she had a third of her stomach removed because of an ulcer. Unable to eat, Blixen died in 1962 at Rungstedlund, her family’s estate, at the age of 77, apparently of malnutrition.


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Cassius DioCassius Dio

c. 150-235

Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus (c. 150-235 CE) was a Roman consul and a noted historian writing in Greek. Dio published a history of Rome in 80 volumes, beginning with the legendary arrival of Aeneas in Italy through the subsequent founding of Rome (753 BC), the formation of the Republic (509 BC) and the creation of the Empire (31 BC), up to 229 AD – a period of about 1,400 years. Of the 80 books, written over 22 years, many survive into the modern age intact or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history.

Dio was the son of Cassius Apronianus, a Roman senator. He was born and raised at Nicaea in Bithynia. His praenomen is usually held to have been Lucius, but a Macedonian inscription published in 1970 shows it as Cl., presumably Claudius. Although a Roman citizen, he wrote in Greek. Dio always maintained a love for his hometown of Nicaea, calling it his “home,” as opposed to his description of his villa in Italy (“my residence in Italy”).

Dio passed the greater part of his life in public service. He was a senator under Commodus and governor of Smyrna after the death of Septimius Severus, and afterward suffect consul around 205. He was also Proconsul in Africa and Pannonia. Severus Alexander held him in the highest esteem and made him his consul again, even though his caustic nature irritated the Praetorian Guards, who demanded his life.

Following his second consulship, being advanced in years, he returned to his native country, where he died.


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Benjamin DisraeliBenjamin Disraeli


Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (December 21, 1804-April 19, 1881), was a British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. Starting from comparatively humble origins, he served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Although his father had him baptized to Anglicanism at age 12, he was nonetheless Britain’s first and thus far only Prime Minister who was born into a Jewish family – originally from Italy. He played an instrumental role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party after the Corn Laws schism of 1846.

Although a major figure in the protectionist wing of the Conservative Party after 1844, Disraeli’s relations with the other leading figures in the party, particularly Lord Derby, the overall leader, were often strained. Not until the 1860s would Derby and Disraeli be on easy terms and the latter’s succession of the former assured. From 1852 onward, Disraeli’s career would also be marked by his often intense rivalry with William Ewart Gladstone, who eventually rose to become leader of the Liberal Party. In this feud, Disraeli was aided by his warm friendship with Queen Victoria, who came to detest Gladstone during the latter’s first premiership in the 1870s. In 1876, Disraeli was raised to the peerage as the Earl of Beaconsfield, capping nearly four decades in the House of Commons.

Before and during his political career, Disraeli was well known as a literary and social figure, although his novels are not generally regarded as a part of the Victorian literary canon. He mainly wrote romances, of which Sybil and Vivian Grey are perhaps the best-known today.


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Ella Hepworth DixonElla Hepworth Dixon


Ella Hepworth Dixon (1855-1932) was a British author during the late Victorian period. Her best known work is the “New Woman” novel, The Story of a Modern Woman. This novel was published in 1894.

She was born in London in 1855. She was the seventh child in a family of eight born to William Hepworth Dixon and Marian MacMahon Dixon. William was an editor and, consequently, literature and the arts were valued in their house for the boys and girls.

Dixon received an outstanding education for a young woman at her time, studying at Heidelberg and the London School of Music, as well as painting in Paris. In 1888, she accepted Oscar Wilde’s offer to become the editor of Woman’s World. She eventually also turned to playwriting.

She died in 1932 at the age of 76.


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EL DoctorowE.L. Doctorow


Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (January 6, 1931, New York City-July 21, 2015) was an American author. He was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of second-generation Americans of Russian-Jewish descent. He attended city public grade schools and the Bronx High School of Science where, surrounded by mathematically gifted children, he fled to the office of the school literary magazine, Dynamo. There, he published his first literary effort, “The Beetle,” which he described as “a tale of etymological self-defamation inspired by my reading of Kafka.”

Doctorow attended Kenyon College in Ohio, where he studied with the poet and New Critic John Crowe Ransom, acted in college theater productions and majored in philosophy. After graduating with honors in 1952, he completed a year of graduate work in English drama at Columbia University before being drafted into the Army. He served with the Army as a corporal in the signal corps during the Allied occupation of Germany in 1954-55.

He returned to New York after his military service and took a job as a reader for a motion picture company, where he said he had to read so many Westerns that he was inspired to write what became his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. He began the work as a parody of the Western genre, but the piece evolved into a novel that asserted itself as a serious reclamation of the genre before he was through. It was published to positive reviews in 1960.

Doctorow married a fellow Columbia drama student, Helen Setzer, while in Germany, and by the time he had moved on from his reader’s job in 1960 to become an editor at the New American Library (NAL), a mass market paperback publisher, he was the father of three children. To support his family, he spent nine years as a book editor and then, in 1964, as editor-in-chief at The Dial Press.

In 1969, Doctorow left publishing in order to write, accepting a position as Visiting Writer at the University of California, Irvine, where he completed The Book of Daniel, published in 1971. Doctorow’s next book, written in his home in New Rochelle, New York, was Ragtime (1975).

Doctorow’s subsequent work included the award-winning novels World’s Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989) and The March (2005); two volumes of short fiction, Lives of the Poets I (1984) and Sweetland Stories (2004); and two volumes of selected essays, Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution (1993) and Creationists (2006).

He taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Yale School of Drama, the University of Utah, the University of California, Irvine, and Princeton University. He was the Loretta and Lewis Glucksman Professor of English and American Letters at New York University. In 1998, Doctorow received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.

Doctorow was the recipient of the National Humanities Medal, conferred at the White House in 1998.

He died of lung cancer on July 21, 2015, aged 84, in Manhattan.


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John DonneJohn Donne


John Donne (between January 24 and June 19, 1572-March 31, 1631), an English poet, satirist, lawyer and priest, is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.

Donne was born in London into a Roman Catholic family when practice of that religion was illegal in England. His father, John Donne, was of Welsh descent and a warden of the Ironmongers Company in the City of London. Donne was a student at Hart Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford, from the age of 11. After three years at Oxford, he was admitted to the University of Cambridge, where he studied for another three years. He was unable to obtain a degree from either institution because of his Catholicism – he could not take the Oath of Supremacy required of graduates.

In 1591, he was accepted as a student at the Thavies Inn legal school, one of the Inns of Chancery in London. In 1592, he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court. During and after his education, Donne spent much of his considerable inheritance on women, literature, pastimes and travel. Although there is no record detailing precisely where he went, it is known that he travelled across Europe and later fought with the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh against the Spanish at Cadiz (1596) and the Azores (1597) and witnessed the loss of the Spanish flagship, the San Felipe.

By the age of 25, he was well prepared for the diplomatic career he appeared to be seeking. He was appointed chief secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton, and was established at Egerton’s London home, York House, Strand, close to the Palace of Whitehall, then the most influential social centre in England.

Donne’s earliest poems showed a developed knowledge of English society coupled with sharp criticism of its problems. His satires dealt with common Elizabethan topics, such as corruption in the legal system, mediocre poets and pompous courtiers. His images of sickness, vomit, manure and plague reflected his strongly satiric view of a world populated by all the fools and knaves of England. His third satire, however, deals with the problem of true religion, a matter of great importance to Donne.

Donne’s early career was also notable for his erotic poetry, especially his elegies. Donne did not publish these poems, although did allow them to circulate widely in manuscript form.

The fashion for coterie poetry gave him a means to seek patronage and many of his poems were written for wealthy friends or patrons, especially Sir Robert Drury, who came to be Donne’s chief patron in 1610. Donne wrote “An Anatomy of the World” (1611) and “Of the Progress of the Soul” (1612) for Drury.

In late November and early December 1623 he suffered a nearly fatal illness, thought to be either typhus or a combination of a cold followed by a period of fever. During his convalescence he wrote a series of meditations and prayers on health, pain and sickness that were published as a book in 1624 under the title, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.

It is thought that his final illness was stomach cancer, although this has not been proved. He died on March 31, 1631, having written many poems, most only in manuscript.


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HDHilda Doolittle (HD)


H.D., Hilda Doolittle, was born on September 10, 1886, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her mother, a Moravian, and her father, an astronomer, she grew up to be what some have called the finest of all Imagist poets. Her accomplishments, though, extended far beyond her early Imagist poems. Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction writings were published on both sides of the Atlantic and her roles in a few early films also earned her praise. Most of the awards, including the Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Brandeis and Longview Awards, came late in her life, when her poetry had begun to break away from strict Imagism.

Her days in Pennsylvania were spent among her family and extended family. As a young woman she began lifelong friendships with Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound. She met them both before and during her days at Bryn Mawr, but dropped out and found her way to England in 1911. Her romance with Ezra Pound had ended, but he had found his way to Europe before her and introduced her to London’s literary circles. In London, she also met the novelist Richard Aldington, whom she married on October 18, 1913 in the borough of Kensington.

H.D.’s first published poems appeared in the journal Poetry in January 1913 (“Hermes of the Ways,” “Orchard” and “Epigram”). She then began turbulent times during which her intense, but nonsexual, relationship with D.H. Lawrence began, and her marriage became troubled. Her novel, Bid Me to Live, is largely about this time.

The years during World War II were very productive for H.D., in contrast to her experience of World War I. She became very interested in spiritualism and her poetry began to strain at the boundaries of Imagism. “The Walls Do Not Fall,” the first part of “Trilogy,” was her break with Imagism.

After the war, though, H.D. suffered a mental breakdown, and returned to Switzerland. She lived at Kusnacht, a clinic, and various hotels. She was now 60, yet was experiencing the most prolific writing years of her life. However, in July 1961, she suffered a stroke. She died on September 21, 1961, and was buried on Nisky Hill, back in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, among her family.


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Ariel DorfmanAriel Dorfman


Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman (born May 6, 1942) is an Argentine-Chilean novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist.

Dorfman was born in Buenos Aires. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to the United States and then, in 1954, moved to Chile. He attended and later worked as a professor at the University of Chile. From 1968 to 1969, he attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley and then returned to Chile.

From 1970 to 1973, Dorfman served as a cultural advisor to president Salvador Allende. During this time he wrote, with Armand Mattelart, a critique of North American cultural imperialism, How to Read Donald Duck. Forced to leave Chile in 1973 after the coup by General Augusto Pinochet leading to the death of President Salvador Allende, he subsequently lived in Paris, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. Since 1985 he has taught at Duke University, where he is currently Walter Hines Page Research Professor of Literature and Professor of Latin American Studies. Dorfman details his life of exile and bi-cultural living in his memoir, Heading South, Looking North. His most famous play is Death and the Maiden.

A critic of Pinochet, he has written extensively about the general’s extradition case for the Spanish newspaper El Pais and other publications, and in the book, Exorcising Terror: The Incredible Unending Trial of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Besides poetry, essays and novels – Hard Rain, winner of the Sudamericana Award; Widows; The Last Song of Manuel Sendero; Mascara; Konfidenz; The Nanny and the Iceberg; and Blake’s Therapy – he has written short stories, including “My House Is on Fire,” and general nonfiction, including The Empire’s Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds.

His latest works include: the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel book, Desert Memories; a collection of essays, Other Septembers, Many Americas; Burning City; Americanos: Los Pasos de Murieta; and a new volume of memoirs, Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile. In 2007, his musical, Dancing Shadows, opened in Seoul, Korea. In 2011, his play, Purgatorio, had its Spanish-language premiere at the Teatro Espanol in Madrid.


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Edward DornEdward Dorn


Edward Dorn was born on April 2, 1929, in Villa Grove, Illinois. He studied with Charles Olson at Black Mountain College and graduated in 1955. He taught at Idaho State University at Pocatello (1961-65), the University of Essex, Great Britain (1965-1970), Northeastern Illinois University at Chicago (1970-1971), Kent State University, Ohio (1973-74) and the University of Colorado (1977-1999).

Dorn wrote and published extensively. His works include: What I See in the Maximus Poems (1960), The Newly Fallen (1961), Hands Up! (1964), Geography (1965), The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin Plateau (1966), The North Atlantic Turbine (1967), Gunslinger Book I (1968), Gunslinger Book II (1969), Twenty-Four Love Songs (1969), Tree between Two Walls (1969), Songs Set Two: A Short Count (1970), The Cycle (1971), Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World (1971), Gunslinger Book III (1972), Recollections of Gran Apacheria (1974), The Collected Poems: 1956-1974 (1975), Slinger (1975), Views (1980), Yellow Lola (1981) and Abhorrences (1990).

Dorn died in December 1999 at the age of 70.


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John dos PassosJohn Dos Passos


John Roderigo Dos Passos (January 14, 1896-September 28, 1970) was an American novelist and artist. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia.

Dos Passos received a first-class education, enrolling at The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1907 under the name John Roderigo Madison, then traveled with a private tutor on a six-month tour of France, England, Italy, Greece and the Middle East to study the masters of classical art, architecture and literature. In 1912 he attended Harvard University. Following his graduation in 1916 he traveled to Spain to study art and architecture.

With World War I raging in Europe and America not yet participating, Dos Passos volunteered in July 1917 for the S.S.U. 60 of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps. He worked as a driver in Paris, France, and in north-central Italy. By the late summer of 1918, he had completed a draft of his first novel. At the same time, he had to report for duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Camp Crane in Pennsylvania. At war’s end, he was stationed in Paris, where the U.S. Army Overseas Education Commission allowed him to study anthropology at the Sorbonne.

Considered one of the “Lost Generation” writers, Dos Passos published his first novel in 1920, One Man’s Initiation: 1917. It was followed by an antiwar story, Three Soldiers, which brought him considerable recognition. His 1925 novel about life in New York City, titled Manhattan Transfer, was a commercial success and introduced experimental stream-of-consciousness techniques into Dos Passos’ method. These ideas also coalesced into the U.S.A. Trilogy, of which the first book appeared in 1930.

In the mid-1930s, he wrote a series of scathing articles about Communist political theory and created an idealistic Communist in “The Big Money,” one who is gradually worn down and destroyed by groupthink in the party. As a result of socialism gaining popularity in Europe in response to Fascism, there was a sharp decline in international sales of his books. Between 1942 and 1945, Dos Passos worked as a journalist and war correspondent covering World War II.

He continued to write until his death in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970.


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Fyodor DostoevskyFyodor Dostoevsky


Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, Russia, on November 11, 1821, the son of a doctor. His family was very religious and Dostoevsky was deeply religious all his life. He attended school in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was trained to be a military engineer, but he disliked school and loved literature. When he finished school, he turned from the career he was trained for and devoted himself to writing.

Dostoevsky began his career writing fiction about poor people in harsh situations. In 1843, he finished his first novel, Poor Folk. His second novel, The Double (1846), was received less warmly; his later works in the 1840s were received coldly.

Dostoevsky returned to St. Petersburg in 1859. To support himself, Dostoevsky edited the journal, Time, with his brother, Mikhail, and wrote a number of fictional works. In 1861, he published Memoirs from the House of the Dead. Notes from the Underground followed in 1864.

In 1866, Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment, which is the most popular of his great novels. He traveled in 1867 and remained away from Russia for more than four years. His economic condition was very difficult and Dostoevsky repeatedly lost what little money they had while gambling. The Idiot was written between 1867 and 1869. Dostoevsky began writing The Possessed (also translated as The Devils) in 1870 and published it in 1871-1872. The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880) is the greatest of Dostoevsky’s novels.

Dostoevsky sent the last part of The Brothers Karamazov to his publisher on November 8, 1880, and he died soon afterward, on January 28, 1881.


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Frederick DouglassFrederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass was the most important black American leader of the 19th century. He was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in Talbot County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in 1818, the son of a slave woman and, in all likelihood, her white master. Upon his escape from slavery at age 20, Douglass adopted a new surname from the hero of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake.” Douglass immortalized his formative years as a slave in the first of three autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, published in 1845. This and two subsequent autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), mark Douglass’ greatest contributions to Southern culture. Written both as antislavery propaganda and as personal revelation, they are universally regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography.

Douglass’ public life ranged from his work as an abolitionist in the early 1840s to his attacks on Jim Crow segregation in the 1890s. Douglass lived the bulk of his career in Rochester, N.Y., where for 16 years he edited the most influential black newspaper of the mid-19th century, called successively The North Star (1847-51), Frederick Douglass’ Paper (1851-58) and The Douglass Monthly (1859-63). Douglass achieved international fame as an orator with few peers and as a writer of persuasive power. In thousands of speeches and editorials Douglass levied an irresistible indictment against slavery and racism, provided an indomitable voice of hope for his people, embraced antislavery politics and preached his own brand of American ideals.

Douglass welcomed the Civil War in 1861 as a moral crusade to eradicate the evil of slavery. During the war, he labored as a fierce propagandist of the Union cause and emancipation, as a recruiter of black troops and, on two occasions, as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. Douglass made a major contribution to the intellectual tradition of millennial nationalism, the outlook from which many Americans, North and South, interpreted the Civil War. During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, Douglass’ leadership became less activist and more emblematic. He traveled and lectured widely on racial issues, but his most popular topic was “Self-Made Men.” By the 1870s, Douglass had moved to Washington, D.C., where he edited the newspaper, The New National Era, and became president of the ill-fated Freedmen’s Bank. As a stalwart Republican, he was appointed marshal (1877-81) and recorder of deeds (1881-86) for the District of Columbia, charge d’affaires for Santo Domingo and minister to Haiti (1889-91).

Douglass had five children by his first wife Anna Murray, a free black woman from Baltimore who followed him out of slavery in 1838. Less than two years after Anna died in 1882, the 63-year-old Douglass married Helen Pitts, his white former secretary, an event of considerable controversy. Thus by birth and by his two marriages, Douglass is one of the South’s most famous examples of the region’s mixed racial heritage.

Douglass never lost a sense of attachment to the South. “Nothing but an intense love of personal freedom keeps us [fugitive slaves] from the South,” Douglass wrote in 1848. He often referred to Maryland as his “own dear native soil.” Brilliant, heroic and complex, Douglass became a symbol of his age and a unique American voice for humanism and social justice. His life and thought will always speak profoundly to the dilemma of being black in America.

Douglass died of heart failure in 1895.


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Rita DoveRita Dove


Rita Frances Dove (born August 28, 1952) is an American poet and author.

Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, to Ray Dove, the first African-American chemist to work in the U.S. tire industry (as research chemist at Goodyear), and Elvira Hord, who achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter. In 1970, Dove graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar, making her one of the 100 top American high school graduates that year. Later, Dove graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Miami University in 1973 and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977. In 1974, she held a Fulbright Scholarship from Eberhard Karls Universitat Tubingen, Germany.

Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989. She received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry and, in 1993, at age 40, she was named Poet Laureate of the United States by the Librarian of Congress, an office she held from 1993 to 1995 as the youngest person, and as the first and to-date only African-American in that post. Since 1989, she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English.

In 1994, she published the play, The Darker Face of the Earth, which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. Dove’s next collection of poetry, Sonata Mulattica, was published in 2009.


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Roddy DoyleRoddy Doyle


Roddy Doyle (born May 8, 1958, in Dublin) is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. Several of his books have been made into successful films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. He won the Booker Prize in 1993.

Doyle grew up in Kilbarrack, Dublin. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming a full-time writer in 1993.

He established a creative writing centre, Fighting Words, which opened in Dublin in January 2009. It was inspired by a visit to his friend Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia project in San Francisco.

He signed a petition supporting journalist Suzanne Breen, who faced jail for refusing to divulge her sources in court. He also joined thousands of angry people from Clontarf to protest against an attempt by Dublin City Council to construct nine-foot barriers that would interfere with one of his favorite views.


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Arthur Conan DoyleSir Arthur Conan Doyle


Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (May 22, 1859-July 7, 1930) was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, nonfiction, historical novels and humor (“Exploits of Brigadier E. Gerard”).

Doyle was born the third of 10 siblings in Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston and in Sheffield. While studying, Doyle also began writing short stories; his first published story appeared in Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal before he was 20. Following his term at university, he was employed as a ship’s surgeon on the SS Mayumba during a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his doctorate on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.

In 1882, he set up an independent practice in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful; while waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novel – The Narrative of John Smith – which would go unpublished until 2011. His first significant work, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887. It featured the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Future short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the English Strand Magazine.

In December 1893, in order to dedicate more of his time to more “important” works – his historical novels – Doyle had Holmes and Professor Moriarty apparently plunge to their deaths together down the Reichenbach Falls in the story, “The Final Problem.” Public outcry, however, led him to bring the character back in 1901, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, though this was set at a time before the Reichenbach incident. In 1903, Conan Doyle published his first Holmes short story in 10 years, “The Adventure of the Empty House,” in which it was explained that only Moriarty had fallen; but since Holmes had other dangerous enemies – especially Colonel Sebastian Moran – he had arranged to also be perceived as dead. Holmes ultimately was featured in a total of 56 short stories and four novels.

Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on July 7, 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71.


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Michael DraytonMichael Drayton


Michael Drayton was born at Hartshill in Warwickshire in 1563. As a youth he became page to Sir Henry Goodeere of Polesworth. Goodeere is to be credited for Drayton’s education. Little else is known of Drayton’s early years, though it has been suggested that he may have served in the army before settling down in London in 1590.

Drayton’s career as a poet spanned from his first published work in 1591 to his last in 1630. His first published work was “Harmonie of the Church” (1591), a metrical rendering of scriptural passages, rife with alliteration. Soon thereafter, Drayton, a disciple of Edmund Spenser, wrote Idea, the Shepherd’s Garland (1593), consisting of nine eclogues, or pastoral verse dialogues. Next, Drayton published the historical poems “Peirs Gaveston” (1593) and “Matilda” (1594). Idea’s Mirror (1594) is a collection of love sonnets, the first version of his later sonnet sequence, Idea. In 1595, Drayton published “Endymion and Phoebe,” one of the sources for Keats’ “Endymion.”

In 1596, Drayton published Robert, Duke of Normandy (revised 1605 and 1619), a legend. In it, Fame and Fortune tell Robert’s story in the presence of Robert’s ghost. In the same year, Drayton also published the historical poem, “Mortimeriados,” which underwent an extensive rewriting and reappeared as “The Barons’ Wars” in 1603. One of Drayton’s finest works, England’s Heroical Epistles (1597), a collection of verse letters by lovers, earned Drayton the title of “our English Ovid.”

Drayton’s only extant play, The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle (1600), played on the popularity of Falstaff from Shakespeare’s plays. It may have been a collaboration, like the now-lost plays of which only records survive.

Drayton’s Poems Lyric and Pastoral (1606) was the first to introduce imitations of Horace’s Odes. The collection contains the odes “To the Virginian Voyage” and “The Battle of Agincourt.” Drayton’s masterpiece, however, is “Poly-Olbion” (1612 and 1622), a 30,000-line historical-geographical poem celebrating all the counties of England and Wales.

In 1627 appeared “The Battle of Agincourt,” an attempt at epic, “The Miseries of Queen Margaret” and “Nymphidia, the Court of Fairy,” Drayton’s most popular work. Drayton’s last published work, “The Muses’ Elizium,” is a return to the pastoral.

Michael Drayton died in London on December 2, 1631.


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