It’s Fat Tuesday y’all! New Orleans will see an intense increase in tourism for the festivities—parades, musical performances, picnics and more await festival-goers. When travelling to a history-laden state like Louisiana, however, don’t forget that its cultural legacy extends far beyond Bourbon Street. Why not prolong your Mardi Gras plans and immerse yourself in Louisiana’s most influential literary sites?
Tennessee Williams, most famous for his plays A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), relied heavily on his southern upbringing to populate his vivid and emotional stories. The city hosts an annual “Stella-off” at the Tennesee Williams Literary Festival, in which participants do their best impression of the line Stanley Kowalksi famously yells after his wife—“Stelllllaaaaa!” This year the festival begins on March 22nd and will hold workshops, walking tours, panels and more.
Perhaps the most famous modern author from New Orleans, Anne Rice can be thanked (or condemned, depending on your taste) for the rise of vampire-related sagas such as Twilight. Interview With a Vampire, her 1976 hit novel, takes place at a mansion loosely based on her own Brevard House—a nearly 9,000 square foot Greek and Italian revival-style home located in the Garden District of New Orleans. Stroll through the neighborhood to view street after street of ornate, 19th century mansions inspired by European architecture.
If you find yourself wanting to explore the northern end of Louisiana, why not take a trip to Cloutierville, home to feminist author Kate Chopin in her adulthood. The Awakening, Chopin’s 1899 novel, was a groundbreaking look at motherhood—namely the idea that perhaps all women aren’t cut out for it, a notion that remains controversial to this day. This sleepy town hasn’t changed much, and the Victorian, almost gothic architecture mirrors that of the structures The Awakening’s protagonist, Edna, finds so overbearing.
For a more in-depth look at these historical literary sites, check out the following articles and be sure to read the literary works described above:
Mardi Gras doesn’t have to be all about pounding back drinks and collecting beads—although it certainly can’t hurt to enjoy the festivities, when enjoyed responsibly—but don’t miss out on the literary treasures New Orleans has to offer.