The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: O is for…

Old Mortality!

First published in 1937 by Southern Review and in volume 5 of Fiction Parade, Old Mortality is a short novel written by Katherine Anne Porter. It tells the story of Miranda and her sister, Maria, growing up in the South. The pair live in the shadow of their deceased Aunt Amy, who is remembered by most family members as faultlessly beautiful and charming.

Every woman in the family is continuously compared to Amy causing friction and rebellion — and because of that adulation one aunt despises the whole family, Amy’s sister never wed and became a stern suffragist, and Miranda runs away from school to elope. It is later revealed that Amy was indeed rebellious herself, causing scandals with strange men and strife within her family. Ultimately, the story is about how memory shapes one’s sense of self and the need to find your own path in life.

Old Mortality is often examined together with Porter’s other “Miranda stories,” which include The Circus, The Fig Tree, The Grave, Pale Horse Pale Rider, and Holiday. Although the Miranda in each is story is not the same woman, she is thought to be Porter’s fictionalized self, exploring Porter’s own struggles with society expectations and personal growth.

You can explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s online in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers to learn more about Porter’s hobbies and manuscripts!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

Special Collections Spotlight: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven papers

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, also know as the Baroness, (1874-1927) was an avant-garde artist and poet associated with the Dada movement. She was born Else Hildegard Ploetz on July 12, 1874, in Swinemunde on the Baltic Sea, in present day Poland but then a part of Germany. In 1892 she ran away from home and moved to Berlin, where she lived with her mother’s sister and frequented Bohemian theatre circles. She eventually moved to New York and was active in Greenwich Village from 1913 to 1923, where her radical self-displays came to embody Dada. She was close friends with artist/writer Duna Barnes.

After her death in 1927, von Freytag-Loringhoven’s papers fell into Barnes’s possession. Beginning in 1932, Barnes attempted to write a biography of von Freytag-Loringhoven (based on a draft of an autobiography and miscellaneous notes and letters she had sent to Barnes), but the project was ultimately dropped.

The Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven papers are held in Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Maryland. The papers consist of correspondence, poetry, and biographical and autobiographical notes and manuscripts documenting her life and literary career. Among the significant correspondents are Djuna Barnes, Peggy Guggenheim, and Berenice Abbott.

View our online exhibit “In Transition: Selected Poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Browse the finding aid to the Elsa von Freytag-Loringhiven papers.

Contact us for more information about the collection! 


What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: N is for…

New Year and Noon Wine!

Happy New Year! We are back learning about the life and works of Katherine Anne Porter through the alphabet!

Noon Wine is a short novel by Katherine Anne Porter, originally published as a stand alone in 1937, then again two years later as included in the trio of works in Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939). When writing Noon Wine, Porter drew inspiration from an incident in her childhood and her interactions with seasonal crop workers to write the tale. Set in South Texas, Noon Wine follows farmer Royal Earle Thompson, his family, and farmhand Olaf Helton. Themes of morality, the outsider, and guilt are among the many ways readers can examine the characters and events of Noon Wine. Like much of her fiction, Porter delves into the complexity of the human experience and memory in a way that highlights the power and sensitivity of storytelling within the literary modernism genre.

The story was adapted into a radio episode of NBC University Theatre in 1948. In 1966, the story was turned into a made-for-TV movie, with Porter collaborating on the script. The movie was a success and nominated for Best Movie Adaptation by the Writers Guild. In 1985, PBS adapted the short novel again for American Playhouse.

You can view digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s online in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

If you are on the University of Maryland campus, you can access our digital collections and listen to Porter read Noon Wine!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

Special Collections Spotlight: Katherine Anne Porter papers

Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library is home to the literary archive of Texas-born author Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980). She is best know for her short stories and bestselling novel Ship of Fools. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966 for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter.

Porter’s personal papers reflect her interests in writing, travel, politics, and current events and also document her private life. The collection includes correspondence, notes and drafts for her works, publications, legal documents, and financial records. It also includes over 1,500 photographs from her personal collection, dating from the 1890s to 1979. Subjects of both snapshots and professional portraits include Porter, her family, friends, homes, and places she visited. The Porter collection also contains memorabilia, including Mexican pottery, furniture, awards, and diplomas, as well as her personal library. Many of these objects and a portion of her library are housed in the Katherine Anne Porter Room in Hornbake Library.

Shortly after accepting an honorary degree from the University of Maryland in 1966, Porter announced that she would donate her papers, personal library, and other personal effects to the University of Maryland, where the Katherine Anne Porter Room was dedicated in McKeldin Library on May 15, 1968. She moved to College Park in 1969, in part to be closer to the university and her papers. From that time until ill health prevented it, Porter often visited the room to work on her papers. She thought of it as a place where individuals could “view and enjoy her library and furnishings” in an atmosphere that reflected her personal taste and style.

View our online wxhibit “Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives 1912-1977“.

Browse the fining aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers.

Contact us for more information! 


What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a description of the contents of a collection, similar to a table of contents you would find in a book. A collection’s contents are often grouped logically and describe the group of items within each folder. You rarely find descriptions of the individual items within collections. Finding aids also contain information about the size and scope of collections. Additional contextual information may also be included.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: M is for…

Marginalia!

When Katherine Anne Porter donated her literary papers to University of Maryland in the 1960s, she also donated her complete personal library of over 3,800 titles. The collection covers a little bit of everything from history to poetry to hobbies. One of the most interesting parts of the collection is the marginalia – Porter’s scribbled handwriting on end papers and next to interesting paragraphs throughout her books.

Marginalia is a Latin term that refers to notes and drawings along the text block in a book. It’s one of the ways we can observe how readers interact with their books. Opinions on specific passages, personal edits, bored doodles, and all sorts of comments that a passionate reader will leave inside the pages of a book. Porter, an avid reader and author herself, often marked up the copies of teh books in her personal library, leaving us evidence of her thoughts and relationship to a particular work.

There are several kinds of markings you can discover in the Katherine Anne Porter Library. In some cases, Porter marked the front of books with the date and place where they were acquired. Sometimes she wrote notes about the author, especially if they were friends of hers. More commonly, Porter jotted down her thoughts on the content including research notes for her own writing pieces or missives on the book’s theme. She was a very opinionated woman and her marginalia reflects it.

For example, opening a copy of Sigmund Freud’s A General Introduction of Psychoanalysis and The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, you will uncover Porter’s distaste for the famed Austrian neurologist . Her comments show a hatred for Freud, calling him an idiot, among other names, and making lengthy comments throughout the text. Another interesting example of marginalia is Porter’s copy of Robert McAlmon’s Being Geniuses Together, which details the writings and personal anecdotes of many Modernist writers whom Porter met through social and literary circles in Paris and beyond. In her personal copy, Porter went through and marked everyone who she outlived and added the occasional captious comment on their personality. 

Not every book has extensive notes, but the marginalia provides unique insight into Porter’s mind and is a useful reference tool for researchers. Currently, we are compiling a list of which books have marginalia and the type of notation and hope to add it to the Katherine Anne Porter finding aid once it is completed.

You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to see more of Katherine Anne Porter’s personal library. Contact us to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: L is for…

Lecture!

Katherine Anne Porter supported her writing by guest lecturing at conferences or working as a writer-in-residence. Porter estimated that she visited over 200 colleges and universities around the world. The reason Porter gave so many lectures, she said in an interview, is that if you want to write what you like, “you have to have a side job for your bread and butter. I developed a secondary skill of talking peoples ear off… I have been doing this for 35 years and students have remained the same, only with tighter pants and longer hair.”

Porter’s success with a summer class at Stanford University in 1947 resulted in several long teaching stints at universities: Stanford University (1948-1949); University of Michigan (1953-1954); University of Liege (Fulbright Fellow, 1954); University of Virginia (1958); and Washington and Lee University (1959). She also lectured at the University of Maryland, where she received an honorary degree. You can listen to her lecturing for Marc Kever’s English class in the Katherine Anne Porter Room in McKeldin Library on December 14, 1972: https://av.lib.umd.edu/media_objects/gm80hw07f (access restricted to users at the UMD College Park Campus).

Porter preferred evening lectures, as she liked to wear an evening gown and gloves. She wanted her appearances to be a memorable event! After the reading or discussion she would sign books and chat with attendees. Porter was a natural conversationalist. During her lectures she wanted the freedom to follow the natural course of an conversation, so she never wrote a script and made very few notes.

When she was a writer-in-residence, she tried to keep as simple of a schedule as she could manage. Two classes a week was more than enough to fill her time because she would inevitably receive endless social invitations from faculty and student group, leaving little to work on her own projects. She liked to have personal interactions with her students and would throw beef and beer parties to get to know them. Students were fond of Porter and still wrote her letters after the courses finished. 

Porter’s top advice for students? Learn how to read! In her opinion, students should read a little of everything, starting with her favorite literary work – Homer’s Odyssey. To Porter, books were meant to expand your thinking and she tried to impress upon students that becoming a great reader and writer takes a whole lifetime as there is always more to learn.

You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: K is for…

Kitchen!

Katherine Anne Porter loved to cook and entertain! She would swap recipes via letters and entice her friends to visit with promises of blueberry pancakes and smoked oysters. Even the simplest of dinners was an occasion for Porter. She would create detailed menus listing the attendees, courses served, and drinks to match. Bigger events like holidays and parties were an excuse for Porter to indulge in Moët champagne and cook favorite recipes from her travels around the world. Over the years, she saved labels from different products and write anecdotes about the meal and who she shared it with. When friends couldn’t make a visit, Porter would mail them her homemade “Hell Broth,” a fermented pepper sauce, to add warmth to soups and sauces. 

When the rubber spatula came out in 1920’s, it was a big deal for Porter who claimed it to be an astounding utensil! Porter’s interest in cooking lead to experiments with different ingredients. Sometimes her experimental cooking would go so far as to transform a recipe into a completely different dish from a totally different culture. She only measured by eye, calling the ability to cook a “gift” that required “your eye, your hand, and your sense of smell and taste to be present and all good friends.” Outside of dinner parties and recipe adventures, Porter took great joy in simple food too, like the perfect piece of toast. Of course, the bread was always homemade and it would be served alongside her kitchen staples of a cheap beefsteak and Old Forester whisky.

You can see some of Porter’s recipes and cookbook collection on display now in the Maryland Room! Browse the finding aid for the Katherine Anne Porter papers to explore her collection at UMD. Contact us to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: J is for…

Journalism!

While she received acclaim for her short novels and literary works, for a brief period of time Katherine Anne Porter was a journalist. In her 20s, she befriended Kitty Barry Crawford, co-founder of the Fort Worth Critic, while both women were hospitalized with tuberculosis in a sanitarium in Texas. In 1917, when her good health returned, Porter took a job with the weekly paper predominately writing theater reviews, but only stayed for a few months. At Kitty’s urging, Porter accompanied her to Colorado where she spent a year writing for the Rocky Mountain News. She once again focused on theater and society news, with an occasionally more somber piece as World War I went on.

Porter’s newspaper career was cut short when she fell ill during the 1918 influence pandemic and almost died. Porter later stated that her obituary had been written, funeral planned, and her family was simply waiting for her to pass. The experience reinforced Porter’s passion for serious writing and would eventually become the inspiration for her acclaimed story “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” Throughout Porter’s life her work would continue to be published in literary journals and popular magazines, both fiction and non-fiction pieces, but she never resumed her work as a reporter or society columnist again.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to read clippings from Katherine Anne Porter’s time as a journalist. You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977. Contact us to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: I is for…

Image!

Katherine Anne Porter’s image is striking and instantly recognizable. She was a young beauty with dark brown that was transformed stark white due the stress and treatment of Spanish Influenza in 1918. Her hair had been white for so long, she was sometimes mistaken for a blonde in black and white photographs. Even the postage stamp that was created in her honor in 2006 originally portrayed Porter as a blonde as a result of using black and white photos as reference.

As a well-known author, Porter tended to be very formal with her appearance with strong ideas about she looked and should be portrayed. She felt pictures of her, especially on book jackets or in newspapers, needed to be dignified to match her serious dedication to writing. She is often photographed professionally to show her unsmiling with her preferred ¾ profile. Porter felt that portrait style was more distinguished and flattering to her face shape. When not being photographed for media reasons, Porter is quick to smile, showing the still elegant but much more relaxed and private version of herself.

Porter was also close friends with photographer George Platt Lynes (1907-1955), who photographed Porter on many occasions. She was often posed in evening gowns with soft lighting, with the effect of creating an aura of old Hollywood glamour to Porter’s beauty.

You can see digitized photos of Katherine Anne Porter through Special Collection’s Digital Repository or visit the Maryland Room in-person. Browse the finding aid for the Katherine Anne Porter papers to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: H is for…

Husbands!

Trysts, affairs, partners, paramours… there was no shortage of lovers in Katherine Anne Porter’s life, five of whom she married. Her first husband was John Koontz, whom she married in 1906 when Porter was only 16 years old. The marriage was far from happy and Porter left her husband to pursue an acting career before formally divorcing Koontz in June 1915. In quick succession, Porter married and divorced her second husband T. Otto Tasket. Her third marriage in 1916 to Carl Von Pless was also short lived, lasting less than a year. 

Porter would be married twice more during her lifetime. In 1930, Porter met Eugene Pressly in Mexico. He was 14 years younger and worked for the U.S. Foreign Service; Porter moved with him to various posts throughout their relationship. In 1933, the pair was married in Paris, but were often away from each other due to conflicting schedules. They eventually separated in 1937. Her final marriage was to Albert Erskine Jr. in 1938 and only lasted two years. He was 21 years younger than Porter and also involved in the literary world. 

There is not a lot of information available about Porter’s early marriages. Official records, letters, and pictures have either been lost or destroyed. Porter’s romantic relationships were often tumultuous affairs that burned out quick. When things ended, she was prone to slicing up correspondence or setting it on fire in a dramatic effort to rid herself of the past. However, there are still many letters between Porter and her last two husbands throughout the respective courtships as well as letters between Porter and various lovers, offering an intimate look into the side of Porter that was always looking for love.

You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!


Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.