Walter Sullivan was born Walter Laurence Sullivan, on 4 January 1924, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father died when Walter was only three months old and he was raised by his mother and her siblings and his grandparents. After attending local schools Sullivan entered Vanderbilt in 1941, but interrupted his studies to serve in the U. S. Marine Corps for three years during World War II. Fortunately, the war ended before he could be ordered into combat.
While at Vanderbilt, before the war, Sullivan had begun to study creative writing under Donald Davidson (#1169-090). He returned to Tennessee after the war and resumed his studies at Vanderbilt, graduating in 1947. After graduating Sullivan moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where he attended the University of Iowa and studied under Andrew Lytle (#1169-006) at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Flannery O'Connor was one of his fellow students. He earned his M. F. A. in 1949.
Upon receiving his M. F. A., Sullivan returned to Vanderbilt University to join the English faculty, where he taught courses on writing and became an acknowledge expert on the Fugitive and Agrarian literary movements of the 1920s and 1930s. He became a full professor in 1963. Sullivan remained at Vanderbilt University for the rest of his career, until his retirement in 2000. In addition to being an expert on the Fugitives and Agrarians, Professor Sullivan was personal friends with several of them, including Donald Davidson (#1169-090), Peter Hillsman Taylor (#1169-013), Allen Tate (#1169-012), Andrew Lytle (#1169-006), and Robert Penn Warren (#1169-014). He was a student of Richmond Beatty, Donald Davidson, Walter Clyde Curry, and Claude Finney, each contributing to his dedication to literature and teaching.
In 1973, Professor Sullivan delivered a series of lectures on modern American novelists on WDCN, the National Educational Television channel in Nashville. The series became an immediate hit, and his subjects included Hemingway, Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, and Saul Bellow. He repeated the format with a series of lectures on modern British authors.
In addition to teaching, Sullivan wrote fiction and his first novel,
Sojourn of a Stranger, was published in 1957. His second novel,
The Long, Long Love, was published in 1959. Since that time he has authored numerous articles, books, and short stories. In later years, he also produced a number of works of literary criticism, beginning with
Death by Melancholy: Essays on Modern Southern Fiction (1972). He then produced
A Requiem for the Renascence: The State of Fiction in the Modern South (1976). He also produced many short stories but they have not yet been published collectively. Shortly before his death, Sullivan also produced an autobiographical account of his life:
Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Memoir (2006).
Following Sullivan's death, the
Sewanee Review has awarded a prize, annually, in Sullivan's name to "an author published in the magazine that calendar year whose work demonstrates marked accomplishment in fiction or the criticism of fiction." Sullivan had contributed both fiction and criticism to the Sewanee Review for over forty years.
Sullivan married Jane Harrison in 1947. They had a daughter and two sons. Born into an Episcopalian family, Sullivan became disenchanted with the policies of the Church. He helped establish the Society for the Preservation of the
Book of Common Prayer in the 1960s. In the 1970s, he and his wife joined the Roman Catholic Church. Sullivan died on 15 August 2006, in Nashville, TN.
"Walter Sullivan Collection, 1928-1993 (#MSS 426)", 1.21 lin. ft.
Special Collections and University Archives, Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
"Walter Sullivan (Novelist)" (2016). [Biographical Sketch]
"Novelist and Short Story Writer Walter Sullivan Dead at 82". [Obituary]
Vanderbilt News (16 August 2006).
Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 4/17/2016, 3/8/2017, 3/28/2017.
Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Walter Sullivan Papers. He was born, Stuart Thurman Wright, on 30 March 1948, in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war's battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide "Johnny Reb" essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.
In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.
Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.
At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the
Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.
All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright's collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his
Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for
John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching
Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.
Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, illustrators, composers, and publishers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016