"Mr. Niles wants a girl's story," Louisa May Alcott wrote in her journal, "so I plot away, although I don't enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it." 150 years later, yet another film version of "Little Women" is set to open in theaters, and the novel has never been out of print. As remarkable as the success of Alcott's "girl's story" is the literary neighborhood in Concord, Massachusetts from which it came. Alcott and her sisters were taught by Thoreau; Emerson and Hawthorne were the Alcott's neighbors. Bronson Alcott, a pioneer in alternative education, aspired to live a "spotless spiritual life," a life that did not include attention to earning a living. In a New York Times article from 1889, Louisa says, "Twenty years ago I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done." Alcott lived an exceptional life at the center of the Transcendentalist Movement, what Susan Cheever would call "American Bloomsbury." Reading Alcott's "Little Women" is suggested, but not required for the class.
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