Gangsters, Hustlers, and Nobodies Nobody Knows Dreiser, Algren, Liebling, and Bellow on Chicago

Three Wednesdays, September 30 and October 14, 28, 12:30–2:00 P.M. | Compass Bank Building, Second Floor, 2001 Kirby at San Felipe

Chicago and Houston were both founded in 1833, but Chicago’s birthplace in the geographic and economic center of the United States fostered its rapid growth in size and importance. By the Columbian Exposition of 1893, it was a world city and its great art was its architecture. The literary culture of Chicago was mostly the local color naturalism of forgotten writers like Hamlin Garland, Robert Herrick, and Henry Blake Fuller, but this tradition culminated in Chicago’s first great novel, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1905). Between Dreiser and Saul Bellow, there was James T. Farrell, who wrote the Studs Lonigan trilogy and set the tone for tough guys and ethnic types like Nelson Algren whose Chicago: City on the Make (1951) has the swagger and unavoidable sentimentality Dreiser avoided. With Algren’s short book, we’ll also glance at A. J. Liebling’s Chicago: The Second City (1952) for a New Yorker’s take on things, then on to Bellow’s The Dean’s December (1982), which poses Chicago’s racial violence against conditions in Communist Bucharest--an important book of the Cold War, a daring conceit on Bellow’s part, and a slice of his autobiography. Bellow writes as a Chicagoan, a Jew, a Nobel Laureate, and as an American with a clear eye on European culture—not so much as an immigrant as an heir. There’s no time to read Farrell, but we will discuss Dreiser, Algren, and Liebling on the first day, and then Bellow.

Terrence Doody, professor of English at Rice University, has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Mellon Foundation, as well as several prestigious teaching awards.



Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


The interest list for the fall and spring study tours is open. If you are interested in traveling with the Houston Seminar to Natchez in the fall of 2018 or Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy.


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


Fall is just around the corner. Register today!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.