Discipline: Literature

Josephine Pinckney

Discipline: Literature
MacDowell Fellowships: 1932, 1933

Josephine Pinckney (1895-1957) was a novelist, poet, and essayist who played a key role in the literary revival that swept through the South after World War I. She attended the College of Charleston, Radcliffe College, and Columbia University, and worked closely with Dubose Heyward, Hervey Allen, and John Bennett in founding the Poetry Society of South Carolina in 1920. Over the next decade, Pinckney developed a national reputation for her poetry, often taking the form of eulogies to a vanishing way of southern life. Her only book of poems, Sea-Drinking Cities (1927) received praise from Donald Davidson for “a luxuriance of phrase, a quiet humor controlling deep emotion.”

Pinckney participated in other aspects of the “Charleston Renaissance” through her dedicated involvement in local cultural institutions, such as the Carolina Art Association, the Charleston Museum, and the Dock Street Theatre. Active in the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals from its inception in 1922, Pinckney helped with the transcriptions and musical annotations for the African American songs included in The Carolina Lowcountry (1931).

Likely as a result of her MacDowell residencies, she befriended printmaker Prentiss Taylor and introduced him to the Charleston art scene around the same time she turned toward writing prose. The Virginia Quarterly Review published her two short stories, “They Shall Return as Strangers” (1934) and “The Marchant of London and the Treacherous Don” (1936). Her essay, “Bulwarks Against Change,” which appeared in W. T. Couch, ed., Culture in the South (1934) remains an insightful commentary on the evolving South.

In 1941 Pinckney published her first novel, Hilton Head, followed by the best-selling social comedy, Three O’Clock Dinner (1945), which made her one of America’s best-known women fiction writers. Her third novel, Great Mischief (1948), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, was followed by My Son and Foe (1952), and Splendid in Ashes (1958). Her editor at Viking Press remembered Pinckney “more warmly” than any other of his distinguished writers of the day for her “charm and grace of her character, the intelligence of her insights into people, the delights of her Charleston ambiance tempered by her cosmopolitan ways and her irony.”



Josephine Pinckney worked in the Cheney studio.

Cheney Studio was given to MacDowell by Mrs. Benjamin P. Cheney and Mrs. Karl Kauffman. Like Barnard Studio, Cheney is a low, broadly massed bungalow. Sited on a steep westward slope, its porches are supported on wooden posts and fieldstone with lattices. Although it still retains its appealing character, the original design of the shingled building…

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