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Manuscript Collection

Stanley Elkin, 1930-1995. American Author.

Stanley Elkin

Finding Aid for the Stanley Elkin Papers [MSS039]

Stanley Lawrence Elkin (May 11, 1930 – May 31, 1995) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Elkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Chicago. He did both his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a bachelor's degree in English in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1961 for his dissertation on William Faulkner. He was a member of the English faculty at Washington University in St. Louis from 1960 until his death, and battled multiple sclerosis for most of his adult life.
During his career, Elkin published ten novels, two volumes of novellas, two books of short stories, a collection of essays, and one (unproduced) screenplay. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerism, popular culture, and male-female relationships, which is portrayed in innumerable darkly comic variations. Characters and especially prose style take full precedence over plot. His language is extravagant and exuberant, baroque and flowery, taking fantastic flight from his characters' endless patter.
Always bordering on the outlandish, Elkin's work did not receive the popular reception given that of many of his peers. It was, however, greeted enthusiastically by critics and reviewers and brought him numerous literary awards, including a National Book Critics Circle Award for George Mills (1983) and for Mrs. Ted Bliss (1995).

Collection Description

The Stanley Elkin Papers consist primarily of Elkin's own manuscripts, including, his plays, filmscripts, essays, and stories, with the bulk of the material being manuscripts and editorial matter toward his novels. Elkin's manuscripts include all stages of his drafts, from autograph notes written on university exam books to word processor diskettes. Also included in the Elkin Papers are an extensive general and professional correspondence, manuscripts by other authors, teaching materials, and his own college literary papers.