Literary luncheon is April 21 South Dakota literature and history will be combined when Dr. Nancy Moose presents a program on O.E. Rolvaag at the 10th annual Literary Luncheon sponsored jointly by the Friends of the Vermillion Public Library and the South Dakota Humanities Council on Wed-nesday, April 21, in the Community Room of the public library. Seating will begin at 11:15 a.m. with the program following at 12:10 p.m. Cutoff date for the purchase of tickets ($6.50 each) is Sunday, April 18, at the library. Phone the library at 677-7060 for reservations.
Moose, a professor of English at Dakota State University in Madison, will speak on "The Women of O.E. Rolvaag's Works," examining the role of women, women's issues and the conditions of women during the early days of South Dakota statehood as perceived in the novels of the well-known author.
Ole Edvart Rolvaag's first novel, Giants in the Earth, a Saga of the Prairie, was a literary sensation when it was published in 1927. It sold 78,000 copies and was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Historian Henry Steele Commager said that more than any other writer Rolvaag provided a feeling of what it meant to pioneer on the high plains in the 1870s and 1880s, to pull up stakes and venture into a strange new land. Giants portrayed a brutally realistic pioneer experience resulting in a hard, tough, often killing existence.
Rolvaag was born in a tiny Norwegian fishing village near the Arctic Circle in 1876. At the age of 20 he emigrated to America in search of his future and found employment as a farmhand with his Uncle Jakob's neighbor near Elk Point. After two years spent taming the prairie he began his American education at Augustana Academy in Canton. He received additional education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN at the University of Oslo, Norway. He then became an instructor in Norwegian at St. Olaf College and advanced to professor and head of the department. Many Clay and Union County residents trace their ancestry to the Scandinavian countries and will find much interest both in Rolvaag's life and his novels. Giants in the Earth and its two sequels, Peder Victorious and Their Father's God, were published while he was teaching at St. Olaf College. He died at the height of his creative power in 1931 at the age of 54.