Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening About the Program

Photo: Kate Chopin
Photograph courtesy Newberry Library, Chicago
Kate Chopin scandalized the 19th century and triggered a revolution in the 20th. She set her stories in New Orleans and in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana—a lush Creole world that awakened desire and longings for freedom. Lost for over half a century, her fiction has been unearthed and rediscovered for our time.

This Louisiana Public Broadcasting production revisits the life and work of renowned nineteenth-century Louisiana author Kate Chopin. She is best known for her work The Awakening, the story of a woman's self-realization that shocked the Victorian establishment. Actress Kelly McGillis (Witness) narrates the documentary and actress JoBeth Williams (The Big Chill) reads passages from Chopin's fiction.

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Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening
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A native of Missouri, Kate O'Flaherty married Oscar Chopin, the son of a wealthy Louisiana cotton grower, in 1870 and moved to New Orleans. They later relocated with their six children to the Chopin family home near Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish. In 1882 Oscar died of swamp fever, and Kate and the children moved back to St. Louis, where she began writing to support the family. Nearly all of her work is set in the areas around New Orleans, Grand Isle and Natchitoches, and provides a vivid window into Louisiana life near the turn of the century.

Her early stories were well-received nationally and earned her literary fame as a "local colorist," even appearing in the first issue of Vogue. However, her career was devastated when The Awakening was published in 1899. It drew a storm of criticism for its "shocking, morbid, and vulgar" story and quickly went out of print. The novel was not resurrected until the 1950s, when its importance was recognized by participants in the growing women's movement. Today The Awakening is among the five most-read American novels in colleges and universities and is considered an early example of American realism.

National and international authorities on Chopin and Southern literature and culture contributed to this program, including Dr. Emily Toth of Louisiana State University; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese of Emory University; Barbara Ewell of Loyola University, New Orleans; R.W.B. Lewis of Yale University; Peggy Prenshaw of Louisiana State University; and Dr. Jean Bardot of France.

Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening was produced by Tika Laudun and Lucille McDowell and directed by Tika Laudun, based on a script by Anna Reid Jhirad. The program was photographed by Rex Fortenberry and edited by Randy Ward, with digital photo restoration and effects by Steve Mitchum. Funding was provided in part by grants from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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