Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2010 Newsletter

Scholarly Publications

There is a long history of celebrated works that result from research conducted in the Ransom Center's collections. Some recent publications follow.


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New Selected Essays: Where I Live, by Tennessee Williams, edited by John S. Bak

(New York: New Directions, 2009)

This new collection, edited by John S. Bak, illuminates the life of Tennessee Williams through his candid prose writing. Ranging in date from the playwright's student days to 1981, these essays offer Williams's reflections upon his plays, his literary contemporaries, his relationships with actors and actresses, his failures, and the "catastrophe of success."

In preparing this edition, Bak consulted the Tennessee Williams papers at the Ransom Center. Bak is MaĆ®tre de Conférences (Associate Professor) at the Université Nancy 2, France.


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On the Dirty Plate Trail: Remembering the Dust Bowl Refugee Camps, Douglas Wixson, Ed.

(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007)

This book presents Sanora Babb's vivid firsthand accounts of the Dust Bowl refugee camps of the 1930s. The volume draws on the field notes the young writer took while visiting California's migrant labor camps for the Farm Security Administration in 1938-39. Douglas Wixson assembles selections from Babb's published articles and fiction, as well as amateur photographs taken by her sister Dorothy. On the Dirty Plate Trail offers an intimate view of the dispossessed farmers' lives and the growth of labor activism in the agricultural valleys along California's Highway 99, the "Dirty Plate Trail."

In preparing this edition, Wixson consulted the Sanora Babb papers at the Ransom Center. Wixson is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology) and recently curated an online exhibition about Sanora Babb on the Ransom Center's website.

Visit the web exhibition Sanora Babb: Stories from the American High Plains


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The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, Eds.

(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

This volume, covering the years 1929-1940, is the first of a four-part series offering a comprehensive range of Samuel Beckett's letters. At the core of this installment are Beckett's letters to Irish art historian, poet, and critic Thomas McGreevy; the edition, however, also features correspondence with James Joyce, Samuel Putnam, George Reavey, Mary Manning Howe, Maria Jolas, and others. In these letters we see Beckett wrestling with aesthetic ideas, composing his works, and struggling to be published (Beckett's translation of Rimbaud's "Le Bateau ivre," for example, was bounced from one little magazine in favor of a letter by Ezra Pound criticizing surrealism). Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck's detailed editorial apparatus includes translations, explanatory notes, chronologies, and profiles of major correspondents.

In compiling this edition, the editors consulted the Samuel Beckett papers at the Ransom Center. Dow Fehsenfeld is an independent scholar and authorized editor of Samuel Beckett's correspondence. More Overbeck is a research associate in the Graduate School at Emory University.


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Hidden Talent: The Emergence of Hollywood Agents, by Tom Kemper

(University of California Press, 2009)

Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall—behind each of these stars was a hidden force: the talent agent. In this history of Hollywood agents, Tom Kemper mines agency archives to present an insider's view of their tooth-and-claw rise to power during the studio era. A tale of ambitious characters, savvy calculation, muckraking, financial ruin, and ultimate triumph, this work establishes the agent's vital role in the Hollywood business world. Existing studies characterize agents as a product of the 1950s, but Kemper revises the record to show how agents emerged from the primordial film industry during the late 1920s and carved themselves a permanent niche. Through case studies of key figures like Myron Selznick and Charles Feldman, we see that the agent's character and social relationships functioned within a business structure—a good reputation and powerful connections were his most precious assets. With wit and precision, Kemper locates Hollywood agents at the crossroads of talent and profit, and captures their central and enduring role in the burgeoning film industry.

Kemper used the Myron Selznick papers, as well as the David O. Selznick collection, for personal correspondence and reflections on the brothers' relationship and business interactions.


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