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University of Texas at Austin

Hugh Kenner:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Kenner, Hugh, 1923-2003
Title: Hugh Kenner Papers
Dates: 1916-1994, n.d. (bulk 1943-1994)
Extent: 106 boxes (45 linear feet), 3 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 card file, 11 galleys files
Abstract: The collection includes correspondence, offprints, clippings, typescripts, galley proofs, photographs, tearsheets, drawings, computer printouts and program sheets, holograph notes and drafts, notebooks, and academic papers documenting Hugh Kenner's career as a critic, scholar, and educator. Subjects include Kenner's numerous published works on Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Buckminster Fuller, mathematics, computing, poetry and literature in general.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02270
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases 1996 (R113875), 1997 (R13903), 2001 (R14927); Gift 1996 (G10707)
Processed by: Lisa Jones, 2001; Stephen Mielke, 2002

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

William Hugh Kenner was born in 1923 at Peterborough, Ontario, to Mary (Williams) Kenner and Henry Rowe Hocking Kenner, a school principal and instructor of Greek and Latin. Kenner received a BA (1945) and MA (1946, gold medal in English) from the University of Toronto. He then attended Yale University where his PhD dissertation, The Poetry of Ezra Pound, received the Porter Prize in 1950.
After completing his degrees, appointments followed at Santa Barbara College (later University of California at Santa Barbara), 1950-1973; Johns Hopkins University, 1973-1990, as Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities; and the University of Georgia, where he was Franklin and Callaway Professor of English from 1990 until his retirement in 1999. Kenner has also held visiting professorships at the University of Michigan (1957), the University of Chicago (1962), the University of Virginia (1964-1965), and the Northrop Frye Chair at the University of Toronto (1985). He received honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago and Trent University, two Guggenheim fellowships (1956, 1963), and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (1956).
Unlike most of his fellow academics and literary critics, Kenner knew personally, and collaborated with, many of the subjects about whom he has written. In a conversation with Ezra Pound in the early 1950s, Pound insisted, "You have an obligation to visit the great men of your own time." Kenner took this admonition literally and over the years has visited and befriended many of the major figures of literary modernism, including Samuel Beckett, William F. Buckley, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky. Kenner's circle of contacts also included prominent figures outside of the modernist movement, such as Guy Davenport, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, and Charles Tomlinson. In addition, Kenner has written extensively, sometimes definitively, about Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, James Joyce, J. M. Synge, Evelyn Waugh, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, and William Butler Yeats.
Considered the premier scholar and critic of literary modernism of his generation, Kenner's career spans 50 years during which he has produced 25 books (and contributed to at least 200 others), nearly a thousand periodical contributions, and numerous other publications, sound recordings, and broadcasts. He is generally acknowledged as the pre-eminent authority on Ezra Pound and one of the major voices of James Joyce scholarship. The 1951 publication of his Yale dissertation The Poetry of Ezra Pound was the first serious book on the subject to be published in America, and Dublin's Joyce (1955) and Joyce's Voices (1978) are considered classics in Joyce criticism.
Kenner's numerous articles and publications on modernist studies examine the movement in broad terms in a manner accessible to a general readership: The Pound Era (1971) outlines international modernism, A Homemade World (1975) analyzes American modernist writers, A Colder Eye (1983), the Irish modernists, and A Sinking Island (1988), the English modernists. Fellow professor, critic, and writer Guy Davenport summarized, "Kenner gave us a way to read Pound, as he has given us a way to read Joyce and Beckett. This is not to say that these are the only way to read these writers: What Kenner does best is show us how to read, and how to appreciate what we read. A critic cannot hope for more success."
The scope of Kenner's critical thought ranges across American and English intellectual history. He has written on mathematics, science, technology, and visual arts. Bucky: A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller (1973) is a non-academic introduction to Fuller's theories of cosmic order and its physical properties. Kenner's book reviews for Byte magazine (1986-1993) examined computer technology for a general readership, and his Art and Antiques magazine column (1984-1992) provided cultural context for art, history, and theory. His critical works on popular culture and film include Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings for the University of California at Berkeley "Portraits of American Genius" series, and articles on Buster Keaton. With his expertise in the modernist movement of the early 1900s and technology and culture of the later 1900s, Kenner has created a body of work touching on many of the leading movements throughout the twentieth century.


Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, Volume 28. Hal May & James G. Lesniak, Eds. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1990).
Dictionary of Literary Biography: Modern American Critics Since 1955, Volume 67. Gregory S. Jay, Ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988).

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, offprints, clippings, typescripts, galley proofs, photographs, tearsheets, drawings, computer printouts and program sheets, holograph notes and drafts, notebooks, and academic papers document Hugh Kenner's career as critic, scholar, and educator from 1943 to 1994. The papers are organized in three series: I. Works, 1943-1994, n.d. (40 boxes); II. Correspondence, 1946-1993, n.d. (14 boxes); III. Subject Files, 1916-1994, n.d. (53 boxes).
The Subject Files series is the largest of the three, constituting one half of the Kenner papers. It includes a large number of papers and articles by colleagues of Kenner and topical files on individuals and subjects related to Kenner's academic interests. The Works series contains various drafts, contracts, and correspondence for books, articles, lectures, reviews, and introductions by Kenner. The smallest series, Correspondence, largely comprises incoming letters to Kenner. Some incoming correspondence and third-party correspondence is located throughout the papers and several correspondents have letters in more than one location. The Index of Correspondents at the end of the finding aid should be consulted to locate correspondence.
The vast majority of the materials are in English, although Chinese and Japanese ideograms are present in the Ezra Pound materials and small amounts of Greek, Latin, Gaelic, Italian, German, and French are located throughout the papers.
The bulk of the papers date from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. A very few items date as early as 1916, but these are generally photo reproductions of items or copies of letters.
The papers are generally in good condition except for occasional stains and smudges, some identified as food and drink spills or mold growth. Most of these materials have been placed in protective sleeves or photocopied and discarded. Although the Ransom Center Conservation Department has treated some of the manuscripts for mold, dormant spores may still be present and patrons sensitive to mold may consider wearing gloves and a dust mask while handling certain files.

Series Descriptions

Index Terms:


Buckley, William F. Jr., 1925-2008.
Bunting, Basil.
Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 1908-2004.
Davenport, Guy.
DeWitt, Miriam Hapgood, 1906-1990.
du Sautoy, Peter.
Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965.
Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983.
Gabler, Hans Walter, 1938- .
Hesse, Eva, 1936-1970.
Jolas, Maria, 1893-1987.
Laughlin, James, 1914-1997.
Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957.
MacGregor, Robert.
McClung, William J.
McLuhan, Marshall, 1911-1980.
Meacham, Harry M. (Harry Monroe), 1901-1975.
Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972.
Muggeridge, Malcolm, 1903-1990.
Pound, Dorothy.
Pound, Omar S.
Ransom, John Crowe, 1888-1974.
Shapiro, Karl Jay, 1913-2000.
Terrell, Carroll Franklin.
Tomlinson, Charles.
Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963.
Zukofsky, Celia Thaew.
Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978.


Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
New Directions Publishing.
Sterling Lord Agency.


Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989.
Davenport, Guy.
Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965.
Fuller, R. Buckminster, (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983.
Joyce, James, 1882-1941.
Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957.
Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963.
Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978.
English literature, 20th century, History and criticism.
English poetry, 20th century, History and criticism.
Geodesic domes.

Document Types

Audio tapes.
Christmas Cards.
Galley proofs.

Hugh Kenner Papers--Folder List