History of the Writers’ House

The Writers’ House is named for two twentieth-century writers closely connected to the University of Maryland. Juan Ramón Jiménez was a professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Katherine Anne Porter is a preeminent American fiction writer who left a portion of her personal library and papers to the university, housed among the Special Collections in Hornbake Library.

Born a native of Texas on May 15, 1890, Katherine Anne Porter‘s passion for writing led her to move to New York, where her first short story was published. Her reputation rests on her short fiction, although she published one novel and nonfiction pieces, including book reviews, essays, and memoirs. Many of her stories sprung from her personal history and from places where she resided, such as Mexico, Berlin, and Paris. Between 1920 and 1931 she spent nearly three years in Mexico, which became the setting of some of her stories, including “Maria Concepcion.” In 1969 Porter moved to College Park, Maryland, from Washington D.C. She donated her personal library and a portion of her papers to the University of Maryland Libraries, where a room in Hornbake Library is named in her honor.

Part of a group of poets and writers who led Spain’s literary revival at the turn of the century, Juan Ramón Jiménez was one of the greatest Spanish poets of the 20th century. Also a critic and editor of literary journals, one of his most important contributions to literature was his idea of “poesia pura,” or pure poetry. He spent the later part of his career teaching at the University of Maryland at College Park between 1948 to 1951. His fellow faculty members nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he won in 1956. An extraordinarily prolific writer, his several dozen works include Animal de Fondo, Platero y Yo, and Three Hundred Poems.