Closing Soon: Exhibition Showcases Literature About Baseball, Boxing, Football and Other Sports

The exhibition "Literature and Sport" is on view at the Harry Ransom Center through August 4.

The exhibition "Literature and Sport" is on view at the Harry Ransom Center through August 4.

The exhibition Literature and Sport is on view at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin through August 4.

The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the sudden-death play, the crushing blow, the herculean feat, the insufferable star, the sweat, the triumph, the thrill. Sport holds a sacred place in western culture and literature. Writers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Norman Mailer, Marianne Moore, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Foster Wallace have written about sport. But their works are no mere play-by-play accounts. 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, and other sports. From Bernard Malamud’s The Natural to Norman Mailer’s The Fight, great literary works capture the appeal of sport and its ability to transform both the individual and society, all the while demonstrating through lyricism and verbal dexterity how writers elevate language to literature.

The Ransom Center is located at 21st and Guadalupe streets. The Ransom Center Gallerie are open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours until 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.

Free docent-led tours are offered Tuesdays at noon, Thursdays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Megan Barnard, Assistant Director for Acquisitions and Administration, leads a tour of Literature and Sport on Wednesday, July 31, at 7 p.m.

Norman Mailer materials chronicle Apollo 11's trip to the moon 40 years ago


Astronaut on the moon with American flag. From NASA photo no. AS11-40-5875

Astronaut on the moon with American flag. From NASA photo no. AS11-40-5875

From the Vietnam War to capital punishment, Norman Mailer engaged the important intellectual and social issues of his time. So it should come as no surprise that Mailer chronicled America’s space program and the 1969 journey of Apollo 11 in a three-part article for LIFE Magazine. Portions of the piece ultimately became Mailer’s book “Of a Fire on the Moon” (Little, Brown, 1970).

As Mailer stated in a letter to Neil Armstrong on February 26, 1970, “I’ve worked as assiduously as any writer I know to portray the space program in its largest not its smallest dimension.” In “Of a Fire on the Moon,” Mailer searches for the moral and philosophical meaning of landing on the moon.

View Mailer’s handwritten manuscripts, research materials, NASA photographs, and notes concerning “Of a Fire on the Moon,” all from Mailer’s archive at the Ransom Center. The collection, which includes materials associated with all of Mailer’s literary projects, whether completed or not, contains more than 1,000 boxes of materials and is available to researchers, students, and the public.