Modern Literature Collection
Inaugurated in 1964, the Modern Literature Collection was created as an archive of the work of contemporary English and American writers who were considered critically underappreciated and whose reputations might grow further in the years to come. A committee of five writers associated with Washington University met to compile a list of potential acquisitions. Headed by the award-winning poet Mona Van Duyn, this panel was charged with both recommending and contacting a select group of authors.
Special Collections then set about acquiring manuscript materials, such as personal and editorial correspondence, publishers’ proofs, drafts, and ephemera, that reflected the writers’ compositional processes and provided biographical information. This strategy created a set of unique literary archives that now forms the core of the Modern Literature Collection.
The Department complemented this important body of papers with definitive collections of the published work of these authors—appearances in periodicals, first editions, later editions, copies corrected or inscribed by the author, and books containing contributions, translations, biographies, and critical studies—to create a research archive of print material to accompany the manuscripts. In a few cases, Special Collections even collected this printed matter for authors whose papers they were not able to acquire. The result is a multi-layered and broad-reaching collection that provides scholars with meaningful perspectives on the authors’ lives and work.
The work of forty-six writers, all but two of whom were then currently living, was reflected in the initial Modern Literature Collection. Today, the Collection’s list has grown to more than 175 authors, presses, and journals, with more than 125 of these represented by manuscript materials. The prescience and commitment of the original panel reaped great rewards, producing a set of printed and manuscript collections that are internationally recognized and accessed by scholars from around the globe.
The letters, notebooks, drafts, and other archival material of writers can provide invaluable insight into the creative process behind literary masterpieces. To help students and other researchers discover these materials, we have compiled introductions to many of the poets, playwrights, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers (or in some cases, a combination thereof) for whom we hold major archival collections, and/or significant holdings. For more information, contact the Curator of the Modern Literature Collection/Manuscripts Joel Minor.
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Special Collections recently acquired the Charles Johnson Papers, an archival collection of materials related to the life and work of...View Collection about Charles Johnson Papers
The James Merrill Papers consists of drafts, diaries, correspondence, photographs, and more that detail the life of this remarkable poet....View Collection about James Merrill
Described as one of the masters of the contemporary short story, the Joy Williams Collection spans over five decades consists...View Collection about Joy Williams
Materials related to the life and work of Eugene O’Neill along with first editions of the playwright’s works located in...View Collection about Eugene O’Neill
The Mary Jo Bang Papers consists of manuscripts and an assortment of materials relating to the artist's work outside of...View Collection about Mary Jo Bang
The A. E. Hotchner Papers consist of manuscript, editorial material, scripts for Hemingway adaptations, correspondence, photographs, and other memorabilia.View Collection about A. E. Hotchner
William H. Gass founded the International Writers Center at Washington University; this collection hopes to honor him while highlighting his...View Collection about William H. Gass
Consists largely of the author's own manuscript material and a substantial amount of personal and general correspondence, particularly to editors,...View Collection about William Gaddis
Stanley Lawrence Elkin wrote extravagant, satirical fiction in innumerable darkly comic variations. This Collection honors his work at the University...View Collection about Stanley Elkin
Never exactly mainstream, Beckett is widely recognized as one of the most important European writers of the 20th century for...View Collection about Samuel Beckett
The River Styx pioneered a multicultural, community‐based approach to literature that was new to St. Louis and much of the...View Collection about River Styx: Liberating the Spoken Word
Mona Van Duyn was the first woman Poet Laureate of the United States, served as poetry consultant for the Libraries’...View Collection about Mona Van Duyn
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Washington University Libraries' Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Manuscript collections contain a broad range of materials dating from the 2nd century BC through the present.
Modern Literature Collection
The Modern Literature Collection includes more than 175 authors, presses, and journals, with more than 125 of these represented by manuscript materials.
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