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James Welch papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 248
Scope and Contents

The James Welch Papers consist of manuscripts, correspondence, and personal papers documenting the life and work of author James Welch. James Welch is well known for his fiction dealing with the histories and experiences of Native Americans, and the drafts of manuscripts, for novels and other works, together with correspondence and secondary literature, make the Welch papers a valuable resource for research in literary, American, and Native American studies. The collection spans the years 1889 to 2006, with the bulk of the collection dating from the early 1960s to 2003.

The collection is housed in 55 boxes and organized into four series: Writings of James Welch, Writings of Others, Correspondence, and Personal Papers. Boxes 50-55 contain Oversize and Restricted Fragile material.

Series I, Writings of James Welch , housed in boxes 1-32, is organized into six subseries: Articles and Essays, Lectures and Speeches, Novels, Poetry, Short Fiction, and Other Writings. The series features drafts and proofs for each of Welch's five novels, his collection of poems, and his nonfiction book on the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The Articles and Essays subseries, housed in box 1, includes autobiographical and critical writings. Autobiographical writings deal with Welch's writing history, his identity as a Native American author, and his experience as a Native American in the U.S. in the latter half of the 20th century. Other writings in this subseries include book reviews, tributes, including one to his teacher Richard Hugo, and prefatory and introductory essays on such subjects as Native American and regional literature, the Blackfeet, and life in Montana.

The Lectures and Speeches subseries, also housed in box 1, includes commencement and graduation speeches, introductions, and discussions of Native American literature and history. In the lecture entitled "Native American Renaissance," for example, Welch discusses the work of several other Native American authors, including N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Silko, Joy Harjo, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie.

The Novels subseries, housed in boxes 1-22, contains drafts, proofs, and other materials for Welch's five novels. In addition to computer printouts and typescript drafts of manuscripts, many of which are corrected, there are also drafts in electronic form. The Welch papers include twenty-seven computer disks, most of which contain files for drafts and research notes relating to particular books. There are fifteen disks, for example, containing drafts for The Heartsong of Charging Elk. In this case, the synopsis and background material, multiple paper and electronic drafts, setting copies, and publicity document the evolution of this text and Welch's writing method.

The Poetry subseries, housed in boxes 23-27, includes drafts and proofs for Welch's collection, Riding the Earthboy 40 (1971), as well as drafts for individual poems. The individual poems, which are arranged alphabetically by title, contain multiple drafts, in holograph and typescript. Many poems date from 1966 to 1968, when Welch was a graduate student at the University of Montana (Missoula), and thus represent early literary efforts.

Other Writings, housed in boxes 28-32, consists of material relating to Welch's nonfiction work, entitled Killing Custer, including a book proposal, background material and notes, drafts, proofs, publicity, and film project notes.

Drafts of writings in electronic form are identified in the box and folder list and include folder notes identifying the disk number and label. The files on the disks were either copied or migrated, and reference copies of the files are available on CDs, which may be viewed on laptops in the library's Reading Room. The original disks are stored in Restricted Fragile.

One computer disk in the collection contains files for outgoing letters and articles. The articles were printed onto copyright paper and arranged alphabetically by title for reference use.

Scattered drafts and copies of writings can also be found as enclosures in Series III. Correspondence and among the school materials in Series IV. Personal Papers.

Series II, Writings of Others , housed in boxes 33-34, is organized into two subseries: Writings of Others on James Welch and Other Writings. Writings on Welch include published articles and interviews, and student papers, theses, and dissertations. The articles, present in both English and French, include book reviews and discussions of Welch's work, some in the context of Native American literature. Noteworthy among the articles is a special issue of Studies in American Indian Literatures (2006) devoted to Welch. The theses and dissertations include three book-length studies on Welch and a German translation of Fools Crow. Writings of others can also be found as enclosures in Series III. Correspondence. These writings are identified in folder notes.

Series III, Correspondence , housed in boxes 35-46, is arranged alphabetically by last name. The correspondence consists chiefly of incoming personal and professional correspondence, though drafts and computer printouts of outgoing letters are also present. There are incoming letters from writers, editors, publishers, literary scholars and critics, and cultural organizations. The correspondence features letters from Western and Native American writers, as well as writers who settled in Montana, and scholars of Native American literature. These correspondents include Kim Barnes, Ralph Beer, LaVerne Harrell Clark, Joy Harjo, Kent Haruf, Patricia Henley, Alvin Josephy, Steven Krauzer, Arnold Krupat, Cyra McFadden, and N. Scott Momaday. There are also letters from Frederick Busch, Sharon Butala, Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen, Ann Patchett, and Gary Snyder.

One computer disk in the collection contains over 100 outgoing letters. These letters were printed onto copyright paper and arranged in the correspondence files for reference use. Reference copies of electronic files are available on CDs and may be viewed on laptops in the library's Reading Room.

Enclosures, such as drafts and copies of writings, photographs, printed ephemera, and third-party letters, are identified in folder notes.

Series IV, Personal Papers , housed in boxes 46-50, is organized into four suberies: Financial Records, Printed Ephemera, School Material, and Other.

The Financial Records consist chiefly of bills and receipts, though travel invoices for readings and itineraries and check stubs for readings and royalties can also be found here.

The printed material consists of clippings, conference and event materials, and ephemera, such as announcements for readings, and brochures, catalogs, and programs. The clippings document the censorship controversy surrounding Fools Crow in Montana secondary schools and French interest in The Heartsong of Charging Elk.

School Materials, which are arranged alphabetically by material type, include course papers and tests, plays and stories written for courses, and notebooks. The eighteen spiral bound notebooks, which consist chiefly of notes for various college courses, also include scattered drafts and sketches for poems and stories. Though many notebooks are undated, they appear to date from Welch's years as an undergraduate (1962-1965). Loose materials are also laid in.

Oversize material, housed in boxes 51-54, includes items from Series I and Series IV. Restricted Fragile materials are housed in box 55.

Language of Materials

Chiefly in English; some materials in French and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Surrogates of all audio recordings are available within the collection. Preservation photocopies and computer printouts have been substituted in the main files for reference use.

Box 55 (computer disks): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies of electronic files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The James Welch Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Ken Lopez on various funds, 1994-2007.

1889 - 2006
Majority of material found within 1960 - 2003
27.22 Linear Feet (54 boxes)
Related Names
Welch, James, 1940-2003
Language of Materials
Language of Materials
Language of Materials
Language of Materials