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John Matteson, photo by Amy Ti. Zielinski
John Matteson


NYS Writers Institute, March 22, 2012
8:00 p.m. Reading | Huxley Theatre, New York State Museum,
Cultural Education Center
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center, Uptown Campus


John Matteson, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, will speak about his new biography, The Lives of Margaret Fuller (2012), a portrait of the 19th century journalist and feminist firebrand, on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. in the Huxley Theatre, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center in downtown Albany. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Friends of the New York State Library, and are free and open to the public.

John Matteson,
biographer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (2007), is the author of the richly researched and delightfully readable new biography, The Lives of Margaret Fuller (2012).

A brilliant writer and a fiery social critic, Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) was perhaps the most famous American woman of her generation. Outspoken and quick-witted, idealistic and adventurous, she became the leading female figure in the Transcendentalist movement, wrote a celebrated column of literary and social commentary for Horace Greeley’s ­New York Tribune, and served as the first foreign correspondent for an American newspaper. A free spirit, she fell in love with an Italian nobleman nearly ten years her junior, and conceived a child with him out of wedlock. In 1848 she joined the fight for Italian independence and, the following year, reported on the struggle while nursing the wounded within range of enemy cannon fire. Amid all these strivings and achievements, she authored the first great work of American feminism: Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Despite her brilliance, however, Fuller suffered from self-doubt and was plagued by ill health, including frequent and debilitating migraines. Tragically, she died at age forty at the peak of her career, together with her little family, in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York in 1850.

The Lives of Margaret FullerIn a Los Angeles Times review, Skandera Trombley said, “Matteson aims to return Fuller to her rightful place among our leading writers and thinkers…. [He] ably demonstrates that Fuller – thanks to her enormous mind and unflinching tenacity in an era bent on silencing women and relegating them to the gallery – deserves much more of our attention. We will all be the better for it.” Marjorie Kehe, writing in the Christian Science Monitor called the book, “a thorough, sympathetic examination of one of the more unusual figures of the 19th-century American intelligentsia – a woman who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with period geniuses such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Amos Bronson Alcott; who alternately irritated and fascinated literary greats like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe; and who enjoyed rare pleasures such as a chance to drift down the Concord River with Henry David Thoreau.”

Matteson received the Pulitzer Prize for his previous book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (2007), a dual biography that explores a rich father-daughter relationship and intellectual partnership. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Martin Rubin said, “One of the pleasures of the book is to be taken back to a time and place of intellectual and moral grandeur…. In producing such a rounded and compelling portrait of Louisa, Bronson, their family and times, Matteson has provided us with a valuable context for appreciating that enduring masterpiece, Little Women.”

John Matteson is Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Cosponsored by the Friends of the New York State Library

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.