SCUA

Gibson, W. Walker

W. Walker Gibson Papers
1936-1993
3 boxes (3.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 062
Image of Walker Gibson
Walker Gibson

Walker Gibson, a professor of English at the University from 1967 to 1987, was a passionate teacher of writing and rhetoric and author of humorous verse. Gibson was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1919 but was raised in Albany, New York. He earned his B.A. from Yale in 1940 and began graduate work at Harvard, however, his studies were interrupted by World War II, where he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the War, Gibson earned his M.A. from the University of Iowa, where he was a research assistant for the Iowa Writers Workshop. For the next twenty years, Gibson taught English and writing at Amherst College and published prose and his signature humorous verse in the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harpers, and the New York Times Magazine among others. Gibson also published several books, including collections of verse, as well as prose works on writing, teaching composition, and literary criticism. Gibson died at the age of 90 in February, 2009.

The Walker Gibson Papers document the writer and teacher’s career through published and unpublished early writings during his years at Yale, binders including his published writings from the 1950s, correspondence with Theodore Baird, his supervisor at Amherst College, and lecture notes from his University writing and English classes. Completing the collection are three folders of miscellaneous correspondence and a folder of Gibson’s unpublished manuscripts from the late seventies and early eighties.

Background on Walker Gibson

W. Walker Gibson, 1955

W. Walker Gibson, 1955

A professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1967 to 1987, Walker Gibson was a passionate teacher of writing and rhetoric and author of humorous verse. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1919, but raised in Albany, N.Y., Gibson earned his BA from Yale in 1940 and began graduate work at Harvard before his studies were interrupted by World War II. After service in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he earned to academia to earn an MA from the University of Iowa, where held a research assistantship in the renowned Iowa Writers Workshop.

For the next twenty years, Gibson taught English and writing at Amherst College, teaching the freshman course in English and lecturing on the side at the Yale Summer Music School from 1948 to 1956. He left Amherst for a position as director of freshman composition at New York University, becoming well known for his work on teaching composition and prose style. As a writer himself, his prose and signature humorous verse appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harpers, and the New York Times Magazine, and he wrote notable monographs on prose writing, including Seeing and writing (1959) AND Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy: An Essay on Modern American Prose Styles (1966).

After taking a Guggenheim fellowship in 1963, Gibson accepted a position at UMass Amherst in 1967 as Professor of English and Director of Freshman English, later becoming Director of the Rhetoric Program (1970-1972) and Director of Undergraduate Studies in English (1974-1976). An energetic colleague, he ran numerous summer institutes for teachers of English during his time at UMass, taught at the Bread Loaf School in 1976 and 9177, and was President of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1973. He is credited with starting the University’s doctoral program in composition and rhetorical studies in 1970.

Gibson was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal at UMass Amherst in 1977, and after his retirement ten years later, the Department of English established an annual lecture in his honor along with the Walker Gibson Prize, awarded to the graduate student with the best essay on composition and rhetoric. Gibson died at the age of 90 in February 2009.

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Contents of Collection

The Gibson papers document a productive career in teaching English composition, spanning the years from Walker Gibson’s graduate study at Yale through his time at Amherst College and eventually two decades at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The collection includes selected publications from the 1950s, correspondence with Theodore Baird (Walker’s supervisor at Amherst College), and lecture notes from his University writing and English classes, along with material from his presidency of the National Council of Teachers of English.

The Gibson collection also includes a transcript of an interview with Gibson by Margret Stain, three folders of miscellaneous correspondence, and a handful of unpublished manuscripts from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Collection inventory
Baird, Theodore: Transcripts of interviews on Theodore Baird
ca.1992
Box 1: 40
Biographical info on Gibson, Walker
1975-1990
Box 1: 1
Correspondence
1946-1989
Baird, Theodore (Amherst College)
1946-1957
Box 1: 38
Baird, Theodore (Amherst College)
1949-1993
Box 1: 39
Correspondence
1960s
Box 1: 2
Correspondence
1970s
Box 1: 3
Correspondence
1980s
Box 1: 4
Interview: A Nest of Singing Rhetorical Birds
ca.1975
Box 1: 9
Modern Literature: British and American Lectures and Notes: Part 1
ca.1963
Box 1: 10
Modern Literature: British and American Lectures and Notes: Part 2
ca.1963
Box 1: 11
Modern Literature: British and American Lectures and Notes: Part 3
ca.1963
Box 1: 12
Modern Literature: British and American Lectures and Notes: Part 4
ca.1963
Box 1: 13
National Council of Teachers of English
1972-1976
Box 1: 21
National Council of Teachers of English: Doublespeak
1974-1991
Box 1: 22
National Council of Teachers of English: Doublespeak
1971-1976
Box 1: 23
National Endowment for the Humanities
1973-1975
Box 1: 24
National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar of UMass 1976-1977 Final Report
1976-1977
Box 1: 25
New York University
1957-1967
Box 1: 26
New York University: A few experiences
ca.1965
Box 1: 27
New York University Materials on A41,00001 Composition
1965-1966
Box 1: 28
Poetry
1943-1957
Poems
1943
Box 1: 7
Poems Reviews, etc., Amherst College Period
1946-1957
Box 2:
Poems in Magazines
1956-1957
Box 3:
War Poems
1940s
Box 3:
War Poems
1943-1946
Box 3:
War Poems
1950-1956
Box 3: 1
Reviews: Tough Sweet and Stuffy
1965-1980
Box 1: 31
Reviews: Persona
1969
Box 1: 32
Reviews: Reckless Spenders Library of Congress reading
ca.1950-1960
Box 1: 33
Reviews: Tough Sweet and Stuffy Computers
1972
Box 1: 34
School: Records
1936-1940
Box 1: 35
School: Yearbook
1936
Box 1: 36
Television
1962-1963
Box 1: 37
University of Massachusetts
ca.1967-1977
Box 1: 41
University of Massachusetts Annual Faculty Reports 1967-1987
1967-1987
Box 2: 1
Writings
1940-1993
The Basic Debate
1976-1977
Box 1: 14
College writings
1940
Box 2: 2
Euphemism
1974
Box 2: 3
The Gaudy Atlas
1956
Box 1: 5
The Man Who Bought Europe
1956
Box 1: 6
Notes on Two Grandparents
1993
Box 1: 15
Oh me Alone: A letter to Susan from her Father
1977
Box 1: 16
Poetry, a magazine of verse
1943
Box 2: 4
Reading and Writing for the New Student, 0-85
ca.1977
Box 1: 29
Reading and Writing for the New Student, 86-197
ca.1977
Box 1: 30
Such Quandaries 0-93
1982
Box 1: 17
Such Quandaries 94-186
1982
Box 1: 18
Such Quandaries
1981-1982
Box 1: 19
Twenty College Courses
1993
Box 1: 20
White Chart
ca.1947
Box 1: 8
Writings on Writing
1950-1978
Box 2: 5
Magna Tape
ca.1965
Box 2:

Residue

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English

Provenance

Acquired from Walker Gibson, 1994.

Processing Information

Encoded by Daniel Cronin, April 2017.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Walker Gibson Papers (FS 062). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Gift of W. Walker Gibson, 1999
Subjects
  • National Council of Teachers of English
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
Contributors
  • Gibson, W. Walker

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