By Colin O’Connell
Annette Lare took a collection of ESU students through the life of her great grandmother Kate Chopin, author of stories such as “The Awakening” and “Desiree’s Baby,” on Nov. 14.
Lare took a little over a half-hour to go through the personal life of Chopin, flashing a PowerPoint with pictures from Chopin’s life and areas where the author lived.
The presentation started out with the foundation of Chopin’s family life, revealing how the death of her father may have influenced her short story, “Story of an Hour.”
Lare did make note of the influence of women in Chopin’s life, noting that after her father’s death she came home to “a house full of women.”
Another aspect of Chopin’s life that Lare stressed was her French influence.
“Kate was homeschooled and they spoke entirely in French, so she did become fluent in French as a little girl,” Lare said. “And then she also got all this influence from these women that was really more French in their outlook than American.”
Chopin’s influences were a mainstay of the lecture with Lare pointing to her family, where she lived, her husband and even her neighbors as possible influences on the author’s works.
Lare also brought up the friendship between Chopin and famous French artist Edgar Degas, to which Lare contended that Degas planted the idea of “The Awakening” in Chopin’s head.
The talk focused more on Chopin’s personal life rather than her works.
Lare flashed slides of biographical information, some of which possibly would not have been available just a few decades ago as Lare pointed out without the “beginning of the renewal of Kate Chopin,” which happened with Dr. Seyersted, a Norwegian scholar at Harvard in the 1950s.
After showing off some impressive personal collections, such as a first edition of Chopin’s first published collection of short stories, Lare opened up the talk to questions.
One major question Lare focused on was Chopin’s link to slavery and racist viewpoints.
“A lot think she was really enlightened about women,” Lare said. “She was not, in my opinion, enlightened about race.”
Lare also revealed that, “I am ashamed to say that my grandfather was a member of a white, racist league in the 1870s, in the reconstruction.”
Lare did go on to note however that both of her parents were civil rights activists, showing a stark contrast between Chopin’s children and her grandchildren.
The talk ended with a round of applause for Lare, who shared a deep understanding of the person who was Kate Chopin.
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