Language and Literature

The personal papers and manuscript collections in this subject category detail the evolution of the written word from an idea into a product. The personal journals, correspondence, manuscript drafts, galley proofs, and financial records of the writers represented in this category give clues to the developing nature of their poetry, essays and books, while the archival records of printing and publishing firms disclose marketing and distribution techniques. Examples of rare and unique writing and printing methods may also be found in this category.

A major collecting interest of the Department of Special Collections involves gathering materials relating to the northern California “bioregion.” The papers of Gary Snyder, a Pulitzer-prize winning California poet, illustrate personal and thematic concerns relating to the wilderness and to Buddhist philosophy, and contain manuscripts, journals, correspondence, and publications relating to his poetry. The papers of Snyder’s contemporaries and influences are also collected, including those of Philip Whalen, Steve Sanfield, Cid Corman, Don Carpenter, Robert Bly, and Michael McClure; in all cases, the manuscript collections complement published works also held in the Department.

The materials in the Avant Garde Poetry Collection provide insight into the themes, styles, and forms American poetry took during a period of radical social change. The fallout of World War II, the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, the social protest and counter-culture movement of the 1960’s, and the Vietnam War all provided material for an explosion of social art which subsides by the middle of the 1970’s. The Avant Garde Poetry collection is arranged according to form–monographs, serials, anthologies, broadsides, and posters are represented.

The alternative press movement developed rapidly during these years, and four collections reveal significant changes in publishing and distribution endeavors. The San Francisco Oracle archives provide an intimate view of a brief but uniquely 60’s publishing endeavor and contains everything from original artwork to inspired correspondence. The archives of Kyoi/Kuksu, a literary magazine devoted to rural or “alternative” lifestyles, contains published and unpublished manuscripts as well as editorial correspondence. The archives of both Sipapu and Western Independent Publishers reveal the difficulties and the rewards of small and alternative press publishing.

Three collections are of historical and political interest. The papers of Ruth Finney, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for investigative reporting on such topics as the Teapot Dome oil scandal and corruption within the utilities industries, contain diaries, articles, clippings, and photographs. The papers of Walter Schoenstedt, a German anti- fascist and fiction writer, contain speeches, essays, and correspondence concerned with the re-education of prisoners of war during World War II. The papers of Paul Elbogen, a German author exiled during World War II, contain his memoir, correspondence, and clippings and complement the donation of the Elbogen library of over 400 books to the Department.

Collections in this subject area are predominantly in English and comprise about 400 linear feet. The materials date from 1500 to the present, and have no geographical limitations, although the focus is on American and British literature. For related materials, see collections under the subject headings of Performing Arts and Art and Architecture.

Language and Literature Manuscripts