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Charles R. Larson:

An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Larson, Charles R.
Title: Charles R. Larson Papers
Dates: 1894-2008 (bulk 1967-2002)
Extent: 34 boxes, 2 oversize boxes, 1 galley file (14.28 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of American writer, editor, and teacher Charles R. Larson consist mainly of his notes, correspondence, and research material, as well as drafts and proofs of his reviews, essays, and novels. Included are typescript and handwritten notes and drafts; clippings, tearsheets, and photocopied excerpts of published works; correspondence; photographs; theater programs; newsletters, catalogs, flyers and brochures; agreements; page proofs; course assignments and syllabi; and curricula vitae. Also present is some original manuscript material by African and Native American writers.
Language: English, French, and Shona
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchase (2009-001-002-P), 2009

Processed by:

Katherine Mosley, 2009

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center


Charles Raymond Larson was born to Ray Olaf and Miriam Kamphoefner Larson on January 14, 1938, in Sioux City, Iowa. Larson graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.A. in English Literature in 1959 and an M.A., also in English Literature, in 1961. He received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 1970.

Larson taught at high schools in Burlington, Iowa (1959-1960) and Englewood, Colorado (1961-1962) and was a part time instructor in the English Department of the University of Colorado (1961-1962) before joining the Peace Corps in 1962. Larson was sent to southeastern Nigeria, where he taught English at Oraukwu Grammar School for two years. While in Nigeria, he developed a strong personal interest in African literature. At the time, courses in African literature were not available in the United States.

Upon returning to the United States, Larson taught at the University of Colorado (1965) and American University in Washington, D.C. (1965-1967) and was a lecturer at Indiana University (1967-1970) while earning his Ph.D. His course in African Literature at the University of Colorado was the first one taught in the United States. When Larson became an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in 1970, he began a long career there, becoming a full professor in 1974 and chair of the department in 2002. He continued to develop and teach new courses in the area of African literature.

Larson served as general editor of Collier’s African/American Library from 1968-1972, producing thirty-eight volumes of works by African, African American, and West Indian writers. He became a fiction and book review editor at Worldview in 1996. As a promoter of African literature, Larson has edited short story anthologies, including African Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary African Writing (1970, published as Modern African Stories in 1971), Opaque Shadows and Other Stories from Contemporary Africa (1975, reprinted as More Modern African Stories ), and Under African Skies: Modern African Stories (1997). Larson’s book The Emergence of African Fiction (1972) examined the works of African novelists, while The Ordeal of the African Writer (2001) addressed publishing challenges and other issues facing African writers. Larson has published numerous essays, reviews and articles about African literature.

Larson has also edited, written, and taught about works by Native American, African American, and Third World authors. American Indian Fiction (1978) offers literary criticism of novels by Native American writers. Larson’s extensive research on Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen resulted in the publication of Invisible Darkness: Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen (1993). He also edited An Intimation of Things Distant: The Collected Fiction of Nella Larsen (1992) and The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen (2001). Other works by Larson include Prejudice: Twenty Tales of Oppression and Liberation (1971), The Novel in the Third World (1976), and Worlds of Fiction (1993).

In addition to the numerous articles, reviews, essays, poetry, and stories he has had published in various periodicals and newspapers, Larson has written several novels. Of these, Academia Nuts was published in 1977, The Insect Colony in 1978, and Arthur Dimmesdale in 1983.

Larson married Roberta Rubenstein on May 2, 1971, and they have two children, Vanessa and Joshua. Rubenstein is also a professor of literature at American University, teaching courses on modernism, modernist and contemporary women writers, and feminist literary theory. She has assisted Larson with his work and was coeditor of the anthology Worlds of Fiction .


Contemporary Authors Online, http://galenet.galegroup.com (accessed 2 July 2009).

Kwakye, Benjamin. "Writers’ Showcase: Charles Larson," http://theafricannovel.wordpress.com/, 1 December 2008 (accessed 2 July 2009).

Larson, Charles. "A Hunger For Words: The African Writer’s Quest," manuscript located in the Ransom Center’s Larson Papers.


The papers of American writer, editor, and teacher Charles R. Larson consist mainly of his notes, correspondence, and research material, as well as drafts and proofs of his reviews, essays, and novels. Included are typescript and handwritten notes and drafts; clippings, tearsheets, and photocopied excerpts of published works; correspondence; photographs; theater programs; newsletters, catalogs, flyers and brochures; agreements; page proofs; course assignments and syllabi; and curricula vitae. Also present is some original manuscript material by African and Native American writers. The materials date primarily from 1967-2002 and are organized in three series: I. Novels and Autobiographical Piece (1974-1982 and undated, 2.5 boxes); II. Critical and Editorial Work and Lectures (1894-2008, 27.5 boxes); and III. Works by African Writers (1959-2002 and undated, 4 boxes, 1 galley file). Most of the papers are in English, although some letters are in French and poems by Chiedza Musengezi are also in Shona. Indexes of works and correspondents at the end of this finding aid list locations for all works and correspondence in the collection.

Series I. Novels and Autobiographical Piece includes page proofs of Larson’s novel Arthur Dimmesdale (1983); handwritten and typed drafts of The Insect Colony (1978); and drafts of several unpublished novels and an essay.

Series II. Critical and Editorial Work and Lectures is subdivided into three subseries: A. African Literature, B. African American Literature and Film, and C. Native American Literature. As Larson stated in his book proposal for The Ordeal of the African Writer, he has spent "a professional lifetime of studying, evaluating, writing about, and teaching African literature," and his papers reflect this. Larson’s numerous files on African writers contain his research material, such as clippings and photocopies of works by African writers, and his notes on their works, along with some correspondence and drafts of Larson’s reviews. Similar files relating to Larson’s work on African American and Native American writers make up Subseries B. and C.

Of particular note are files relating to Larson’s extensive research for his books The Ordeal of the African Writer and Invisible Darkness: Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen. In writing The Ordeal of the African Writer, Larson interviewed and corresponded with writers and publishers about challenges faced by African writers; his notes, correspondence, and other research material are present, along with drafts and page proofs of the book. For Invisible Darkness, Larson corresponded with individuals who had known African American writers Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen, and he gathered documents and other evidence of their lives along with articles and other works about the writers. An unpublished autobiography by Nigerian writer Cyprian Ekwensi and correspondence with writer Bessie Head (South Africa, Botswana) are included in Larson’s files on those writers. Files relating to Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera contain a draft of her unfinished work Obedience, which Larson hoped to ready for publication. Also of interest are files relating to the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) from 1996 to 2001 and the 2005 International Conference on African Literature and the English Language (ICALEL) which include correspondence, brochures and flyers, publisher catalogs, clippings, programs, and papers presented. Larson’s copy of Richard Wright’s FBI file is located with the files on African American writers. Among the files on Native American writers is a file containing a typescript of Idunne by Hyemeyohsts Storm, press packets, and correspondence with the author.

While a few original works by African writers are present in Larson’s files for his short story anthologies and in submission files for Worldview and Kalahari Review, most of the original manuscripts by African writers are located in Series III. Among these are galley proofs of Ayi Kwei Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons; typescripts of short stories by S. Henry Cordor; an inscribed typescript of Solomon Deressa’s Some Poems Finished and Unfinished; signed photocopy typescripts of Wole Soyinka’s Camwood on the Leaves, The Invention, and Madmen and Specialists; and typescripts of Sindiwi Magona’s Last and Mother to Mother. An index of works at the end of this finding aid lists all authors and works represented in the collection.


The Ransom Center’s collection of Research in African Literature s Records also contains Larson-related materials.


Larson’s extensive collection of books by African, African American, West Indian, and Native American authors, including first editions and proof copies, some of them signed or inscribed, has been transferred to the Ransom Center’s Book Collection and cataloged separately. Many of the books were reviewed by Larson and contain his annotations. Those books bearing Larson's annotations may be identified by searching "Larson, Charles R., annotator" in the Former Owner, Printer/Press, Binder module of the UT Libraries' online catalog. Press releases, publishers’ advertisements and other promotional material, correspondence, clippings, purchase receipts, Larson’s notes, drafts of Larson’s reviews, and similar materials found in the books have been withdrawn from the books and are located in box 34. Also cataloged separately are over a hundred Onitsha Market pamphlets, issues of Black Orpheus and other literary journals, and reference books.

Two VHS videocassette tapes of the PBS programs Richard Wright: Black Boy and Malcolm X and one VHS videocassette, one Beta videocassette, and one DVD of Things Fall Apart have been transferred to the Ransom Center’s Moving Image Collection.


People

Farah, Nuruddin, 1945-

Gibbs, James

Head, Bessie, 1937-1986

Lindfors, Bernth

Storm, Hyemeyohsts

Subjects

African literature

Afro-American authors

Authors, African

Authors, American

Authors and publishers--Africa

Indians of North America--Fiction

American literature--Indian authors.

Document Types

Correspondence

Galley proofs

Newspaper clippings

Page proofs

Photographs

Syllabi

Theater programs