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Literature and Sport

June 11, 2013 – August 4, 2013

"The game doesn't change the way you vote or comb your hair or raise your children. It changes nothing but your life." - Don DeLillo, early draft of Underworld

Sport holds a sacred place in western culture and literature. Writers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Norman Mailer, Don DeLillo, Tom Stoppard, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Foster Wallace have written about sport. But their works are no mere play-by-play accounts of a ball game or tennis match or prizefight. The competition, spectacle, personal struggle, and exaggerated personalities so characteristic of sport offer writers the perfect backdrop upon which to look deeply into human nature and create literature that transcends sport itself.

This exhibition showcases the literature of sport through fiction, essays, poetry, and plays. Organized by sport, the exhibition highlights some of the finest examples of literary writing about baseball, football, boxing, tennis, cricket, bullfighting, and other sports. Corrected drafts, handwritten manuscripts, letters, photographs, books, art, and other items—all drawn from the Ransom Center's diverse collections—offer visitors a unique, rarely seen view of these works and their authors' creative processes.

Great literary works capture the broad appeal of sport and its ability to transform individuals and society. Through sport, writers explore the complexities of life, from its challenges and disappointments to its great pleasures. Prominent themes in many of the featured works relate to friendship, aggression, failure, honor, humiliation, pride, loss, and hope. Powerful passages are highlighted throughout the exhibition and demonstrate how writers—through their verbal craftsmanship and dexterity—elevate language to literature.

The exhibition celebrates the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the crushing blow, the herculean feat, the triumph, and the thrill of literature and sport. It demonstrates the breadth of the Ransom Center's collections and features the following works among many others: