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"My whole attempt has been to discover and understand human motives, human feeling, to make a distillation of what human relations and experiences my mind has been able to absorb. I have never known an uninteresting human being, and I have never known two alike..."
-Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter was an award winning novelist whose fiction often assumed the form of morality tales. She frequently addressed feminist issues and created several dominant female characters. Porter never graduated from college, but credited her literary education to five writers, specifically Henry James, James Joyce, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. In the late 1930s, Porter retreated to a quiet inn outside Doylestown, known as the Water Wheel, where she produced Noon Wine, Old Mortality, and Pale Horse, Pale Rider in rapid succession. These three stories were later published together under the title Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. She also wrote a draft of Promised Land, which would eventually become one her best known novels, Ship of Fools. Porter received many distinguished awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1931 and the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1966 for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter. She taught at various colleges and universities, and served as vice president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. She also was a member of President Lyndon Johnson's Committee on Presidential Scholars. Descended from an illustrious family, she was related to Daniel Boone and O. Henry.
Book-cover of Katherine Anne Porter: A Life, by Joan Givner. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982.
Education and Training
Educated at home and in Southern girls' schools. Katherine Anne Porter never attended college, but in 1931 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for study abroad.
Teachers and Influences
Porter was influenced by Henry James, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Dorothy Day, Matthew Josephson, Robert Penn Warren, Hart Crane, Caroline Gorden, Kitty Crawford, Jane Anderson, Elinor Wylie and Genevieve Taggard.
Connection to Bucks County
Porter spent part of the summer of 1928 vacationing and writing at the Clara Coffey farm, near her friends Josephine Herbst and John Herrmann in Erwinna. She visited them again at least once before going abroad in March 1929. In 1936 Porter returned to Bucks County, spending eight weeks at the Waterwheel Tavern, where she produced in rapid succession Noon Wine, Old Mortality, and part of Pale Horse, Pale Rider. These three stories were later published together under the title Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. She also wrote a draft of Promised Land that eventually became Ship of Fools.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Josephine Herbst, John Herrmann, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler
Novels and Short Stories
A Defense of Circe
Flowering Judas and Other Stories, 1930
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
Noon Wine, 1937 (adapted to movie in 1985 as PBS American Playhouse Presentation)
Three Short Novels, 1939
Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939
No Safe Harbor, 1942
The Leaning Tower and Other Stories, 1944
Ship of Fools, 1962
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, 1965
A Christmas Story, 1967
The Never Ending Wrong, 1977
Ship of Fools, 1965
Criticism and Essays
The Days Before, 1952
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Lecturer and teacher at writers conferences; Speaker at more than 200 universities and colleges in the United States and Europe; Writer-In-Residence, or member of the faculties of English at Olivet College (Michigan) 1940; Stanford University (California) 1948-49; University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) 1953-54; University of Virginia (Charlottesville) 1958; Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Virginia) 1959; Ewing Lecturer at UCLA 1959; First Regents Lecturer at University of California (Riverside) 1961
Guggenheim Fellowship for Literature, 1931, 1938
Society of the Libraries of New York University First Annual Gold Medal, 1940
O. Henry Memorial Award, 1962
Emerson-Thoreau Bronze Medal for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1962
Pulitzer Prize, 1966
National Book Award, 1966
National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal, 1967
Honorary Degrees include: Degree in Literature, University of North Carolina, 1949; Smith College, 1958; Wheaton College; DHL from University of Michigan, 1954; University of Maryland, 1966; DFA from La Salle College; and others
Affiliations and Memberships
National Institute of Arts and Letters (Vice-President 1950-52)
American Academy of Arts and Letters
Fellow of the Library of Congress in Regional American Literature, 1944
Representative of American Literature at the International Exposition of the Arts, Paris, 1952
Ford Foundation Grant, 1959-61
State Department Grant for the International Exchange of Persons to Mexico, 1960-64
Member, President Johnson's Committee on Presidential Scholars