Fred Chappell papers, 1944-2023 and undated

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Chappell, Fred, 1936-
Fred Chappell (born 1936) is an author and poet. He was an English professor at UNC Greensboro for 40 years, and he was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002. Collection consists largely of correspondence and writings by Chappell and others, documenting Chappell's literary career, output, and network.
178.75 Linear Feet
5.9 Gigabytes
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The fully processed portion of the Fred Chappell Papers spans the dates 1960-1997, with the bulk being dated after 1970. There are several additions covering the years 1998 through 2015. The collection consists of correspondence; writings by Chappell and other authors; printed material (primarily serials containing stories, poems, and articles by Chappell but also clippings); legal and financial papers; speeches and addresses; interviews; and other material. Documents relate to Chappell's personal life and career, both as a student and writer at Duke University, where he studied under well-known creative writing teacher William Blackburn, and as a writer and professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G). The collection documents the entire length and breadth of Chappell's multifaceted career, beginning with the years just after he completed his undergraduate studies at Duke and started his first novel at the urging of Hiram Haydn, an editor to whom Blackburn had introduced him. Letters, manuscripts, and notebooks provide insight into Chappell's developing literary career, his academic activities at UNC-G, and his growing involvement with a large network of writers, including a number of his former students. Many well-known American authors, especially Southern ones, are represented in the collection. Among the most frequent correspondents are Kelly Cherry, Grace DiSanto, George Garrett, Marianne Gingher, Dana Gioia, Donald Hall, Heather Ross Miller, Robert Morgan, Eve Shelnutt, and Dabney Stuart. Notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, and printed material document the development of Chappell's career across all the genres in which he writes. Supporting material in non-print media, including photographs and audio and video cassettes of readings, document public aspects of his career.

The Correspondence Series, arranged chronologically in Incoming and Outgoing subseries, discloses the range of Chappell's interests and activities in the literary community. The letters not only provide a portrait of his development as a poet and novelist but also demonstrate his active roles in supporting the careers of other writers and promoting the literary community. These latter activities are documented by his numerous affirmative responses to a broad range of requests to read drafts of works-in-progress, write recommendations for other writers for grants and awards, write reviews and provide blurbs for new publications, serve as the judge of contests, speak at conferences and workshops, and serve in various advisory and editorial capacities for literary journals. The correspondence also provides much information about his teaching career and his legacy of students who develop successful careers of their own, such as Cherry, Miller, Morgan, and Shelnutt. The bulk of the outgoing correspondence dates to 1990 or after, when, at the request of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Chappell began retaining copies of all outgoing correspondence.

The Writings by Chappell Series is divided into subseries by genres with the exception of one subseries based on format, the Notebooks Subseries. Since Chappell writes with relatively few hand corrections on any particular stage of his work, the development of an individual work is often apparent only by comparing various complete drafts in manuscripts, typescripts, and proofs. The notebooks are particularly valuable in this regard, providing what often appear to be the earliest versions of works. The notebooks also indicate the facility with which Chappell moves from one genre to another, as most of them are not devoted to a single work or genre but rather include poems, stories, novel fragments, essays, reviews, translations, and drafts of correspondence following one after the other. This versatility is further reflected by the Printed Materials Series, which contains extensive serials with Chappell's publications in multiple genres, especially fiction, poetry, and reviews. At the end of this series, the Clippings Subseries documents his public and critical reception with copies of reviews and essays about his work and publicity about it.

The Miscellaneous Series contains a variety of flyers, leaflets, newsletters, and examples of fan mail that further demonstrate his literary career. Prominent here are such items as the proofs for a 1990 symposium about his poetry and newsletters of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. It also contains two small subseries of audio and video cassettes of readings, interviews, and work by other authors.

The Writings by Others Series contains manuscripts from well-known contemporary writers, ex-students, and aspiring writers seeking advice. Chappell's reactions to the manuscripts are written on many of them, often as the first draft of a letter or requested recommendation. Most writers are represented by only one or two items, but Cherry and Shelnutt are both represented by more than a dozen pieces that, together with their frequent correspondence, outline the development of their respective careers.

Later additions to the collection include incoming and outgoing correspondence, drafts and writings of Chappell's poetry, honors and awards, and printed materials and publications featuring Chappell or his work. Most accessions include bound volumes as well as writings and manuscripts by other authors or poets. There are also some oversize materials, audiovisual materials, clippings, and photographs. These additions have been loosely sorted but have not been incorporated physically or intellectually into the originally processed collection.

Biographical / historical:
Fred Chappell Chronology
Date Event
1936, May 28
Born in Canton, N.C., to James Taylor and Anne (Davis) Taylor
1959, Aug. 2
Married Susan Nicholls
Birth of son, Heath
B.A., Duke University
M.A., Duke University
Member of English Department Faculty, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Rockefeller Foundation Grant
National Institute and American Academy award in literature
Prix de Meilleur des Lettres Etrangers, Académie Française, for Dagon
Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Cup for The World Between the Eyes
Sir Walter Raleigh Award for The Gaudy Place
Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Cup for River: A Poem
Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Cup for Bloodfire: A Poem
North Carolina Award in Literature
Bollingen Prize in Poetry, Yale University Library
Named Excellence Foundation Professor, Burlington Industries Professorship at UNC-G
T.S. Eliot Award, Ingersoll Prizes in Literature and the Humanities
Poet Laureate of North Carolina
SEBA (Southeast Booksellers Association) Book Award, Fiction
John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, North Carolina Humanities Council

Fred Davis Chappell (1936- ) is an author and poet. He was an English professor for 40 years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997–2002. He attended Duke University.

Acquisition information:
The Fred Chappell Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift and purchase from Fred Chappel in 1964-2023; as a gift from Robin Brailsford in 2023.
Processing information:

The fully processed part of this collection merges all twenty-nine additions acquired prior to 1998 with one exception noted below.

Processed by Michael Shumate, Florence Eliza Glaze, Anne Jackson, Katie Pettiss, Brad Siegele, Nicole Teal

Completed February 28, 1998

Additions 93-102, 1998-0299, 1999-0272, 2000-0272, 2001-0145, 2002-0171, and 2003-0089 were processed by Michael Shumate, Lisa Stark, Ruth Bryan, Kate Crassons, and Fuad Naeem and are described in this finding aid. The bulk of accession 93-102 has been fully processed and is incorporated into the main body of the collection and finding aid.

Completed July 23, 2003.

Encoded by Michael Shumate and Elizabeth Arnold.

Later additions are not processed and are described at the series level below.

Updated by Leah Tams, January 2023, May 2023, August 2023.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Access note. Some materials in this collection are electronic records that require special equipment. Contact Research Services for access.

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Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Fred Chappell Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.