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Fielding Dawson Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1978-0003

Scope and Content

The Fielding Dawson Papers cover the years 1926-1997 and represent literary and artistic works from all points in the creative process. The bulk of the papers is comprised of manuscripts, notes, drafts, and galley proofs of stories, essays, poems, books, reviews, and screenplays. Works in the collection consist of Dawson’s unpublished manuscripts and published pieces, such as Krazy Kat, Open Road, and The Black Mountain Book. The papers include a large series of correspondence that reflect his friendships and artistic affinities; correspondents include Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob Javits, as well as literary figures like Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley. Business correspondence with writers and editors about Dawson’s work, and a long series of correspondence between Dawson and his mother that began while he was a student at Black Mountain College, also resides in the correspondence series. The papers encompass artwork, drawings, and photographs featuring Dawson, and a large scrapbook. Of particular note is the collection of memorabilia collected by Dawson throughout his life, including posters, flyers, brochures, and bulletins from Black Mountain College.

Dates

  • 1926-1997

Restrictions on Access

The collection is minmally processed. Access to recent additions however are unprocessed and subject to archivist approval.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.

Biography/History

Short story writer, novelist, poet, artist, and teacher [Guy] Fielding [Lewis] Dawson was born on August 2, 1930 in New York, NY. His mother, poet Cara Alban Byars Dawson, helped inspire his career as an author when, in giving him a typewriter for his fifteenth birthday, she dared him to become the next William Saroyan. Dawson’s father, Clarence, was a journalist and died when he was twelve-years-old. Dawson spent his formative years in Kirkwood, Missouri, and enrolled at Black Mountain College (North Carolina) in 1949. He was drafted as a conscientious objector in 1953 and worked as a cook in a German military hospital.

While at Black Mountain, Dawson was instructed by poet Charles Olson and painter Franz Kline, both of whom became father figures for him. Although Dawson had already published two works, Kline’s influence is apparent in Dawson’s book An Emotional Memoir of Franz Kline (1967), written after the artist’s death in 1962. Olson and Black Mountain had a significant influence on his writing; The Black Mountain Book (1970) documented life at the school from Dawson’s perspective. Dawson was also part of the 1960s Beat movement in New York City, where he relocated and remained for life after his military service. In New York, he frequented artistic and literary hotspots including the Cedar Bar and Max’s Kansas City (a restaurant and nightclub) where he interacted with artists like Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Philip Guston.

Although recognized in the beginning of his career for his illustrations and collages, Dawson soon focused on his writing. In a five-decade-long writing career, he published 23 books including stories, novels, memoir, and poetry. His stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Blind Date, Bombay Gin, Conjunctions, Friction, House Organ, Pharos, River Styx, Shiny, Transfer, Witness, and The World.

Dawson’s writing has been compared to that of Henry James. He was greatly influenced by James Joyce; like Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), much of Dawson’s works are auto- or semi-autobiographical “portraits” dealing with the artistic process. Some works—such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1973)—also rely on the unconscious; they express the narrator’s developing, ever-changing vision of the world. This reliance on the unconscious is indicative of Dawson’s fascination with psychotherapist Carl Jung, whose theories influence his book Thread (1964), which sews together the early stages of Dawson’s life as a child and as an artist. Dawson himself underwent psychotherapy for a number of years; the influence of these sessions is evident in the stories “The Sun Rises into the Sky,” (1974) and “The Man Who Changed Overnight” (1976), among others.

Much of Dawson’s literature has been published by Black Sparrow Press. Some of his more notable works include: Krazy Kat, The Unveiling, and Other Stories (1969), his first novel Open Road (1970), the Penny Lane trilogy (1977, 1981), Krazy Kat [and] 76 More: Collected Stories 1950-1976 (1982), and Virginia Dare: Stories, 1976-1981 (1985). Tiger Lilies: An American Childhood (1984) and 3 x 3 (written with Michael Rumaker and Paul C. Metcalf, 1989) are among his non-Black Sparrow publications.

Dawson was a creative writing teacher at Colorado’s Naropa Institute and began hosting writing classes in prisons (Rikers Island, Attica, and Sing-Sing) beginning in 1984. He taught writing in US prisons for 17 years while also working with at-risk teenagers in alternative high schools. A passionate teacher and an advocate for prison reform, he later became the chairperson for the P.E.N. Prison Writing Committee. His last published piece, No Man’s Land (2000), was colored by these experiences.

Dawson married psychologist Barbara Kraft in 1962; the two later divorced in 1976. Field Dawson died on January 5, 2002, leaving behind his wife, Susan Maldovan.

Sources:

Dawson, Fielding. “The Vertical Fields.” Classic Short Stories. B and L Associates, Bangor, ME, 1995-2007. Web. 30 March 2012.

"Fielding Dawson." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Hrebeniak, Michael. “Fielding Dawson: Writer at the heart of America’s postwar avant-garde.” Guardian News. The Guardian, 5 Apr. 2002. Web. 30 March 2012.

Hrebeniak, Michael. “In Memoriam Fielding Dawson, 1930-2002.” Jacket 16. Jacket Magazine, March 2002. Web. 18 April 2012.

Levitt, Aimee. “Fielding Dawson: The Best St. Louis Writer You’ve Never Read.” RiverFrontTimes.com. River Front Times, 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 March 2012.

Extent

50.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Writings, correspondence, artwork, publications and photographs of short story writer, novelist, poet, artist, and teacher Fielding Dawson. Dawson was known for his "stream-of-consciousness" style of writing and for his vivid memoirs of his time spent as a student at Black Mountain College. The papers contain some drawings and memorabilia, including posters, flyers, brochures, and bulletins, from Black Mountain College.

Arrangement

Arranged in the following series: Writings, Correspondence, Works by Others, Photographs and Artwork, and Associated Publications.

Acquisition Information

Acquired in several installments from Fielding Dawson between 1978 and 1997.
Title
Fielding Dawson Papers
Subtitle
An Inventory
Status
Published
Author
Archives & Special Collections staff
Date
2007 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

Contact:
University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US