The papers span Turner's career as a scholar of American literature, from his undergraduate education at West Texas State University in 1927 to his death in 1980, when he was an instructor at Southwest Texas State University. Comprised primarily of personal and professional correspondence with scholars and publishers of American literature, including Gay Wilson Allen, John Q. Anderson, Louis Budd, Robert Cantwell, James B. Colvert, Eddie Gay Cone, Benjamin Franklin Fisher, Albert Mordell, Norman Holmes Pearson, William Stafford, and Edmund Wilson. There are also letters, printed matter, reports, and minutes that Turner collected as a member or officer of organizations, including the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association, Committee for American Studies, and the Associated Research Council. The Turner Papers also document the development of high school, collegiate, and graduate level instruction in American literature through the organizational records and course materials, the latter of which include Turner's personal writings and research notes, subject files, clippings, lecture notes, and other printed materials on various authors or genres of American literature, including Southern literature, American humor, Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Washington Cable.
The Arlin Turner Papers, 1927-1980, span Turner's entire career as a scholar of American literature, from his undergraduate education at West Texas State University in 1927 to his death in 1980, when he was an instructor at Southwest Texas State University. The Turner Papers are comprised primarily of personal and professional correspondence with scholars and publishers of American literature. The correspondence includes letters, printed matter, reports, and minutes that Turner collected as a member or officer of organizations to which many of these literary scholars belonged. These materials, in addition to the clippings, printed materials and other writings Turner collected, provide insight into the development of the profession of American literary scholarship in the 1920s and 1930s; demonstrate the major concerns, issues, conflicts, and interests of its practitioners over the following four decades; and record research advancements and contributions to scholarship on the literary figures of most interest to Turner. The Turner Papers also document the development of high school, collegiate, and graduate level instruction in American literature through the organizational records and course materials, the latter of which include Turner's personal writings and research notes, subject files he collected, clippings, lecture notes, and other printed materials on various authors or genres of American literature. Finally, this collection provides glimpses into Turner's personal career and scholarly thought through the writings which are included, both those he presented orally as speeches or lectures, or those he published as articles or books. The Turner Papers are organized into five series: Correspondence, Course Materials, Organizations, Printed Material, and Writings and Speeches.
A student of the first generation of American literature scholars in the 1920s, Turner played an important role in the network of scholarly exchange that was vital to the emergence of the discipline in the decades following. Turner kept in contact with numerous colleagues in colleges and universities across the United States and throughout the world, including many former graduate students who later became influential literary scholars and critics themselves. The Correspondence Series, 1930-1980, documents Turner's role in this network of scholarly exchange. The Individuals Subseries, 1930-1980, includes Turner's most voluminous correspondents: American literature specialists and authors Gay Wilson Allen, John Q. Anderson, Louis Budd, Robert Cantwell, James B. Colvert, Eddie Gay Cone, Benjamin Franklin Fisher, Albert Mordell, Norman Holmes Pearson, William Stafford, and Edmund Wilson. The Publications Subseries, 1934-1979, contains portions of Turner's communications with editors, publishers, and presses primarily regarding article reviews or manuscript evaluations of others' work. This subseries also contains some information concerning Turner's own articles, manuscripts, and various published works. Correspondence, brochures, press releases, reports, and contractual information concerning Turner's speaking engagements or attendance at professional meetings is collected in the Conferences, Speeches, and Lectures Subseries, 1961-1978 (bulk 1961-1964). Miscellaneous materials comprised primarily of letters arranged by subject are assembled in the Other Correspondence Subseries, 1948-1979 and undated This subseries also contains research notes, memos, and printed material. These papers document Turner's visiting professor appointments and awards, as well as his interest in topics such as the Duke University Library, the Huntington Library, George W. Cable primary sources, and international scholars of American Literature.
The Course Materials Series, undated, is comprised of information Turner collected to aid in composing classroom lectures, and other teaching materials. He maintained an extensive set of files on American authors, which can be found in the Lecture Notes, By Author Subseries, undated Most files contain a brief biography of the author and list of his major compositions, but may also include copies of their works, a typescript of Turner's lecture on the author, and related materials such as clippings or Turner's handwritten research notes. Turner also collected files on genres of literature, delineated both by region, such as Louisiana or British literature, or by style, such as Short Stories or Recent Fiction. These can be found in the Lecture Notes, By Subject Subseries, undated The Class Files Subseries, undated, contains Turner's teaching materials including syllabi, quizes, and exams. These files pertain to courses Turner taught (or in a few early instances, took) in subjects including American Literature before the Civil War, Post-Civil War Literature, Hawthorne and Melville, American Humor, and Southern Literature. Specific course numbers and titles have been provided wherever possible.
Arlin Turner was an active leader and participant in many of the organizations associated with his profession and interests, which are chronicled in the Organizations Series, 1929-1979 (bulk 1936-1979). These scholarly groups developed policies, conducted studies, and otherwise governed the profession. Thus, Turner's influential positions in most of these associations render his thorough collection of organizational records both valuable and useful. Folders in this series primarily contain correspondence, minutes, memoranda, reports, and printed matter such as newsletters, brochures, and clippings. Most notable is Turner's work with the Modern Language Association (MLA), whose American Literature Section members are primarily responsible for the spread of American Studies programs across the globe. Turner's records also document his work with the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA), the American Studies Association (ASA), and the Southeastern American Studies Association (SEASA). This series likewise chronicles Turner's leadership roles in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
Turner was also a member of the Committee for American Studies, the advisory group for the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils' (CBC) Committee for International Exchange of Persons (CIEP). The Organizations Series also includes files on the selection of Fulbright Scholars that he collected as a member of that committee. In addition, Turner served as chairman of this committee during the period in which the "Loewenberg controversy" consumed the CIEP's affairs. When Prof. Bert J. Loewenberg was denied a Fulbright Award in 1959 despite the committee's recommendation, its members threatened to resign in protest against allegations that Loewenberg's past political activity was to blame. Thus, significant amounts of correspondence from fellow committee members Ray Billington, John Hope Franklin, Harvey Wish, and Charles Barker regarding the controversy is found in this series.
Arlin Turner accumulated a significant number of clippings, newsletters, pamphlets, reprints, and publications related to American Literature. These are collected in the Printed Material Series, undated Included in this series are materials from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), memorabilia from Turner's time at the University of Hull in England, literary magazines, and miscellaneous clippings primarily regarding Southern writers (especially North Carolina authors), William Faulkner, and the New Critics (a.k.a. The Fugitives).
The Writings and Speeches Series, 1938-1980 and undated (bulk 1964-1977), contains copies of Turner's significant oral presentations and other written work, both published and unpublished, in addition to some writings of other authors he accumulated. Files from Turner's speaking engagements include both correspondence and typed copies of his presentations. This series also contains unidentified speech notes and writings, in addition to a bound typescript with handwritten edits of Turner's Nathaniel Hawthorne: A biography . Writings about Turner, including obituaries, tributes, his curriculum vita and the like, are also found in the Writings and Speeches Series.