The Story of Constance Fenimore Woolson’s Rediscovered “Miss Grief”
From the History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
In the immediate aftermath of her death at the age of 53, Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894) was considered one of the greatest writers of her day, but her reputation soon faded. A hundred years later, she was little more than a footnote in her friend Henry James’s biography, until scholars began to rediscover her life and works. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at one of her most famous short stories, “Miss Grief,” in which an aspiring writer of artistic ambition seeks out the opinion and assistance of a more established author. The story, written after Woolson had tried unsuccessfully to meet James for the first time, is often viewed as anticipatory of the relationship that she and James went on to have.