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American Literary Materials in Special Collections: 20th and 21st Century Literature

A guide to resources for the study of American literature in Duke University's David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library


Holdings of 20th- and 21st-century literature are extensive and varied, but especially rich in:Books from the Riess Collection, Duke University Special Collections.

  • Southern literature (including manuscript collections)
  • Feminist authors (including manuscript collections)
  • Popular culture such as zines, comic books, and pulp fiction
  • Gay and lesbian literature
  • Literature of social change (including manuscript collections)
  • Science fiction 
  • The 1950s-70s, including the Black Arts movement, Beat literature, and small press publications
  • Literature and advertising
  • Electronic literature (archival collections)

Notable Manuscript Collections

Kathy Acker, 1948-1997: San Francisco and New York City experimental author and performance artist.  The collection includes manuscript drafts of her works, notebooks, artwork, and other materials.

Dorothy Allison: Author and feminist, originally from South Carolina.  Includes drafts and manuscripts of her writings (including Bastard Out of Carolina, Trash, Cavedweller, and other works), personal and professional correspondence, research materials and subject files, her personal journals, and other materials.  

James Applewhite: Poet, Duke alumnus, and professor of English at the university.  Contains drafts of writings, research files, and correspondence with literary figures such as Robert Bly, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, Donald Hall, and many others.

Richard Bausch: Novelist and short story author, of Virginia and Memphis, TN.  Primarily drafts of writings, including many unpublished works.  The collection also includes correspondence with literary figures such as Frederick Busch, Richard Ford, and Gordon Lish.

Robert Bausch: Novelist and short story author.  Includes drafts of writings and correspondence.

Sallie Bingham: Feminist and author. Includes correspondence, writings, subject files, diaries and notebooks, legal and financial papers, and photographic media. Included also are records of The American Voice, a literary journal founded by Bingham.  See also the records of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, a philanthropic organization founded by Bingham.

William Blackburn, 1899-1972: A member of the Duke University faculty from 1926 to 1969, Blackburn taught creative writing to many students who became successful writers, including James Applewhite, Fred Chappell, Mac Hyman, Reynolds Price, William Styron, Anne Tyler, and others.  Blackburn also edited a volume of Joseph Conrad's correspondence.  Includes extensive correspondence, photographs, writings, and family papers. 

Fred Chappell: Poet laureate of North Carolina (1997-2002), author of many books of fiction and poetry, and Duke alumnus.  Includes extensive incoming and copies of outgoing correspondence, drafts of writings, and an extensive series of writings of other authors sent to Chappell. 

Carl Corley: Author and illustrator of a variety of materials such as gay pulp fiction, comic books, physique art, science fiction, Louisiana history (especially on Cajun folkways), and also books on religious themes. Contains writings, drawings, scrapbooks, notebooks, and published materials. 

Thomas Rain Crowe: Poet, essayist, translator, publisher, activist, and performing artist; owner and editor of New Native Press in Cullowhee, N.C.  Contains correspondence with other writers, friends, and relatives; manuscript versions of works by Crowe and others; poetry notebooks; publicity materials; photographs; audio cassettes; New Native Press records; and other items. Other poets represented include Gary Snyder, Bobi Jones (Welsh), Jack Hirschman, Ken Wainio, Dianna Henning, John Lane, and Joe Napora. There is also material regarding San Francisco intellectual circles and the International Poetry Festival held there, as well as correspondence concerning activism regarding a wide range of political and social issues. 95.8 linear feet. 

Francis Warrington Dawson, 1878-1962: Newsman, novelist, editor, and special assistant to the American Embassy in Paris, of Charleston, S.C. and Versailles, France.  Includes journalism, fiction, poetry, and other writings by Dawson, and extensive correspondence with and about Theodore Roosevelt, Joseph and Jessie Conrad, and other literary figures. 

Thomas Dixon, 1864-1946: Clergyman, lecturer, novelist, and playwright, of New York City and Raleigh, N.C., best known as author of The Clansman, basis for D.W. Griffin's film The Birth of a Nation. Includes correspondence, literary manuscripts and proofs, legal and financial papers, pictures, and miscellaneous papers of Dixon and his second wife, Madelyn Donovan Dixon.

Margaret Fishback, 1900-1985: A poet, columnist, and author of prose work, she contributed frequently to national magazines and published several books.  She also worked as an advertising copywriter.  The papers span the years 1863 through 1978 and document Fishback's dual careers in advertising and writing as well as her personal life. The collection includes correspondence, layouts, drafts, galley proofs, radio scripts, working copy of advertising text, poetry, prose, published material, appointment books, scrapbooks, photographs, and other materials.

George P. Garrett, 1929-2008: Novelist, poet laureate of Virginia (2002-06), and influential editor and professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia.  The papers are notable for their breadth and depth, with manuscripts of Garrett's work in many genres and literary forms (including screenwriting), and for the voluminous correspondence with many literary figures, especially in the South. 

Jim Grimsley: Playwright and novelist, originally from North Carolina.  Papers include journals and notebooks, drafts (including some of Grimsley's science fiction), and other materials. 

Henry Sydnor Harrison, 1880-1930: Author and journalist, of New York City. Includes correspondence, clippings, and miscellaneous papers, relating chiefly to Harrison's earlier novels.

Josephine Humphreys: Author and Duke alumna. Correspondence between Humphreys and other writers and editors; business contracts regarding publications and movie rights; handwritten and typed manuscripts and proofs for her books Dreams of Sleep, Rich in Love, and Fireman’s Fair; typescripts of works by other authors (including Robb Forman Dew and Louise Erdrich); reviews of her and others’ works; and information detailing her speaking engagements and interviews. Also included are books inscribed to Humphreys and seven scrapbooks containing additional correspondence and reviews.

Will Inman, 1923-2009: Poet, essayist, activist, and Duke alumnus.  Contains correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, clippings, and other materials, including documentation of Inman's anti-war and gay rights activism.    

Judy Malloy: Poet, artist, and early creator of online interactive and collaborative fiction. She is a founder of the Arts Conference on the WELL.  Includes documentation and materials from Malloy's publications and programs, including Uncle Roger and its name was Penelope.  Also includes exhibition files and correspondence files from Malloy's career as an artist, both from creating artists' books and from her work in new media and hypertext. Correspondence files include letters, postcards, original artwork and clippings from other artists as well as electronic literature (e-lit) artists and writers.    

Michael Malone: Best-selling author and daytime television writer from Durham, N.C.  Contains drafts and galleys of Malone's novels and other writings, personal and professional correspondence, and teaching materials. Also included are contracts and royalty statements, book tour materials and other promotional materials, videocassettes, audiocassettes, newspaper reviews and clippings, and digital files. The bulk of materials relate to Malone's career as a novelist and as a writer for the popular soap operas One Life to Live and Another World.   

Carson McCullers, 1917-1967: Author and playwright, originally from Georgia.  Collection consists of correspondence between McCullers and Tennessee Williams, Dame Edith Sitwell, and cousins, Jordan Massee, Jr., and Paul Bigelow; writings by McCullers, including drafts of her novels The Member of the Wedding and Clock Without Hands; and correspondence from McCullers' mother, Marguerite (Waters) Smith, to Massee and Bigelow, and other papers.See also the Virginia Spencer Carr Papers (papers of biographer of McCullers, including McCullers correspondence), the Mary E. Mercer Collection of Carson McCullers-Mary Tucker Correspondence (letters from McCullers' childhood piano teacher to McCullers' psychotherapist), the Edwin Peacock Papers (including photographs and correspondence from and about McCullers), and the Mary Sames Tucker Papers (including correspondence from and about McCullers).  

Robin Morgan: Feminist writer and activist. Includes documentation on all of Morgan’s significant written works: Demon Lover; Depth Perception; Dry Your Smile; Going Too Far; A Hot January; Lady of the Beasts; Saturday’s Child; The Burning Time; Monster; her well-known feminist anthologies, Sisterhood Is Powerful, Sisterhood Is Global, and Sisterhood Is Forever; and other materials on her poems, articles, and other writings. 

Flannery O'Connor, 1925-1964: Correspondence from O'Connor in the Thomas F. Gossett Papers.  Gossett, a professor of English at Wake Forest University, befriended O'Connor and other authors; the collection includes more than 115 items about O'Connor, her friend Father James McCown, S.J., and the O'Connor family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia.  

Gwendolyn M. Parker: Author and memoirist, originally from Durham, NC. Includes primarily diaries, correspondence, clippings, writings, and other miscellaneous printed and manuscript materials related to Parker's writing career, including her 1994 novel These Same Long Bones, set in Durham's African-American Hay-Ti community in the 1940s, and her memoir Trespassing, about her career as an African-American lawyer and business executive. 4.5 linear feet. 

Peggy Payne: Author and Duke alumna.  Collection includes drafts of her works Revelation, Sister India, The Hide of the Lion, Electric Yellow, and other materials.   

Joe Ashby Porter: The collection contains holograph draft of published novel, EELGRASS; typescript of unpublished novella, Let's Hide Our Eyes Then; and many periodicals containing short fiction by Porter.   

Padgett Powell: Collection contains correspondence, writings, notes, speeches (notes for literary readings), manuscripts, audio cassettes, travel documents, and other materials. The bulk of the material relates to the writing and publication of Edisto, A Woman Called Drown, the short story collection Typical, and various other short stories.   

Minnie Bruce Pratt: Writer, poet, and activist. Collection includes manuscript material, as well as correspondence, files relating to speaking engagements, and photographic, audio, and visual material documenting Pratt’s life and work.  

Reynolds Price, 1933-2011: Author, Duke alumnus, and James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke for over fifty years.  The collection includes extensive literary and personal correspondence, drafts documenting Price's entire writing career, teaching files, audiovisual materials, and much more.  Frequent correspondents include Eudora Welty, Stephen Spender, Allan Gurganus, Jeff Humphries, Josephine Humphreys, Joe Porter, Lee Smith, and William Blackburn, among many others. . 

Mab Segrest: Southern author, feminist, and gay rights activist.  Correspondence, research files, manuscript drafts, printed materials, teaching files, and other papers concerning Segrest’s career and personal life as author, teacher, feminist, gay activist, publisher, editor, and leader of various social justice and activist organizations.   

Joan Shambaugh: Poet and creative writing teacher. Chiefly poems and drafts of poems written by Shambaugh; also includes journals, notebooks, correspondence, clippings, printed material, watercolors, and information about her creative writing workshops.

Anita Shreve: Best-selling author and journalist.  Collection includes drafts, notes, research materials, business files, and correspondence.   

Alix Kates Shulman: Feminist, author, and political activist in the 1960s and 70s. The primary focus of the collection is Shulman’s writing and literary career. Includes manuscripts, notes, clippings, published books, correspondence, photographs, audio and videotapes.

Stephanie Strickland: Poet and hypertext writer whose works range from paper to interactive websites. Includes digital files; printed journals and anthologies featuring Strickland's poetry; TechnoPoetry Festival materials; schoolwork, college, and graduate papers; posters and programs from events; proofs and drafts of her writings; and audio recordings.   

William Styron, 1925-2006: Author and Duke alumnus, originally from Virginia. The collection includes extensive correspondence; writings by Styron and other authors; audiotapes, videotapes, and photographs; legal and financial papers; interviews; scrapbooks; and other material relating to Styron's personal life and his career as a writer. Among the major correspondents are Robert Penn Warren, Carlos Fuentes, Norman Mailer, and Reynolds Price. See also the papers of James L. W. West III, author of Styron's biography. 

Anne Tyler: Author and Duke alumna. Collection includes drafts of Tyler's novels and short stories; correspondence between Tyler and her publishers; publicity materials; and other materials related to Tyler's career. See also the papers of Taghi Modarressi, author of three novels in Persian and English and Tyler's husband, and Patricia Rowe Willrich, which contains extensive correspondence from Tyler. 

Ken Wainio, 1952-2006: Surrealist author and poet based in San Francisco. Collection includes manuscripts and drafts of many of Wainio's poems and writings. Also includes his journals and diaries, published poetry and printed materials, some correspondence, snapshots, and other biographical information.       

Notable Collections of Printed Works