Nicholas Delbanco (1942-), came to the University of Michigan in 1985, from Bennington College and Skidmore College, and has served as Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and as Robert Frost Collegiate Professor of English Language and Literature.He has also served both as Director and Chair of the Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood Awards Program. He has published over twenty-four books (novels, short stories, non-fiction, and textbooks), as well as many essays, reviews, and articles, and edited selected works of his friends and mentors, John Gardner and Bernard Malamud. The Nicholas Delbanco Papers includes correspondence, manuscripts, personal materials, professional records, and clippings. The correspondence is a rich collection of personal and professional letters exchanged over many years with fellow authors, publishers, and literary agents. Several manuscripts in various stages are also included.
The Nicholas Delbanco Papers were acquired by the Special Collections Library, University of Michigan, in September, 2006. Five boxes were added in November, 2009. The papers span over 40 years and include a particularly rich collection of correspondence with nearly 800 authors, educators, family members, and friends. Well known authors include, among others, John Updike, John Gardner, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Dillard, and Raymond Carver. The correspondence traces the growth of friendships and professional relationships over many years. Other materials demonstrate the development and publication of Delbanco's manuscripts, articles, commentaries, speeches, and other writings as well as his professional careers at Bennington College and the University of Michigan. Delbanco's dedication to his students and the advancement of literature are demonstrated in his professional records, the depth of comments offered on student writings, and his active participation in associations and workshops. Personal materials include correspondence with family members, educational records, photographs, and journals from his early years.
The Nicholas Delbanco Papers are divided into six series: Name and Topical, Writings, Personal, Professional, Computer Disks, and Clippings. Books and serial publications have been separated from the collection to be catalogued individually.
The Name and Topical series contains 10 linear feet, Boxes 1-10, of mainly correspondence with fellow authors, academians, literary agents, and publishers. Topics relevant to the collection, such as university and organizational correspondence or special events are also included. Relevant photographs, clippings, ephemera, manuscripts are generally kept with related names and topics although there may be overlap in the Writings Series, especially when Delbanco and his fellow authors reviewed each other's work. The series is arranged alphabetically, and chronologically within. Incoming and outgoing correspondence are not separated. Each name or topic is given a folder as long as there are at least three letters of correspondence or if the person is of significant status. Names or topics that do not meet these minimum requirements are filed by letter in the alphabet, but are not arranged alphabetically nor chronologically within. The correspondence within these folders spans the years of the collection. There are also several folders that have unidentified correspondence in them because signatures are illegible or incomplete. Identified but undated material are generally placed in the back of related folders.
The largest segments of this series include correspondence with Frederick Busch, John Updike, Jon Manchip White, Andrea Barrett, Alan Cheuse, Richard Elman, Jim Landis, and publishers such as Brandt & Brandt, Warner Books, and Paul R. Reynolds, Inc. Although Jim Landis represented William Morrow as Delbanco's editor, the importance of his friendship with Delbanco appears greater than the business relationship; because of the depth of this friendship, the correspondence is arranged under Landis' name. Correspondence with John Gardner includes correspondence before Gardner's death and then with Gardner's family after his death in 1988, after which Delbanco was assigned to be his literary executor. Other notable correspondents include, among many others, Carly Simon, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, George Garrett, and Wallace Stegner. Any photographs of correspondents or photographs of Delbanco by the correspondents that were originally with letters remain with those letters. Delbanco initially formed many of these friendships and professional relationships in college, graduate school, as a professor at Bennington College, and through writing workshops and conferences at Yaddo, Bennington, and Bread Loaf.
The Writings series is approximately 29 linear feet, Boxes 11-40, and encompasses many but not all of Delbanco's published writings. The series contains six subseries: Fiction, Short Stories, Nonfiction, Editorial Works, Other, and Writings by Others. Titles are arranged chronologically within the Fiction, Short Stories, Nonfiction,and Editorial Works subseries. Each title may contain a variety of formats which are noted – manuscripts, corrigendas, page proofs, typescripts, mock ups, galleys, penultimates, and unbound signatures, etc. These are arranged chronologically and often are titled as such by Delbanco in his notes. Correspondence that relates directly with manuscript materials that were originally with these manuscript materials, remains in this series, while there may be complementary information in Name & Topical.
The bulk of the material in the Fiction subseries, approximately 14 linear feet, is from The Martlet's Tale, News, Fathering, Small Rain, What Remains, and The Vagabonds. It is evident in the collection that some manuscripts were written under a variety of titles before the final decision was made as to the what the published title would be. Every attempt has been made to distinguish and attach these to the final product. One example is Fathering, which was written during the creative process under titles such as "Plague Year", "Times Fool", and "Leave Taking", before settling on the final title.
The Short Stories subseries contains approximately 1 linear foot of materials, Box 25, tracing development of About My Table and four folders, mainly reviews, on The Writer's Trade, and Other Stories. Individual short stories may be found in the Other subseries.
The Nonfiction subseries, Boxes 26-35 with additional materials in oversize Boxes 45-48 and 50, contains material primarily from Beaux Arts Trio, and two textbooks, The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation, and Literature: Craft and Voice. The Beaux Arts Trio was inspired by Delbanco's father-in law, Bernard Greenhouse, a cellist for the original trio.
The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation, a teaching textbook, was a project undertaken with students from Delbanco's English 417 and Strategies in Prose classes. Materials for this textbook include student critiques, opinions, and exercises for the purpose of learning the basics of writing fiction through imitation, "to encourage the students to develop a much more careful and critical eye when reading" (Instructor's Manual, Box 31), and at an advanced level, "to develop what they learn in class into serious critical essays" (Instructor's Manual, Box 31). Student papers, their releases for usage, and Delbanco's comments in response to their writings are included with these materials.
Literature: Craft and Voice is a three volume textbook written in collaboration with Alan Cheuse, covering works of fiction, poetry, and drama by various masters and commentaries on them. The textbook includes "nonfiction accounts of the process of composition (memoirs by playwrights, letters by poets, essays by short story writers, etc.) in which the authors discuss the problems posed and artistic challenges met." (Prospectus, 2003, Box 33).
The Editorial Works subseries contains approximately 1 linear foot, Box 35, of materials for which Delbanco served as editor. These include works by John Gardner, a colleague at Bennington College, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1982, at the age of 55. Delbanco was a great admirer and good friend of Gardner and his family. There are only a few materials relating to Stillness and Shadows, but there is overlapping information and also correspondence in Name and Topical (Gardner, John), reflecting Delbanco's and Gardner's relationship and the trust held by Gardner's family for Delbanco's handling of Gardner's unfinished manuscripts.
In materials relating to Talking Horse: Bernard Malamud on Life and Work, which was a collaboration with Alan Cheuse, there are correspondence, drafts, and an introduction by Delbanco regarding published and unpublished prose by Bernard Malamud. Malamud was Delbanco's mentor at Bennington College; other materials demonstrating Delbanco's and Malamud's relationship are contained in Name & Topical.
The Other subseries, approximately 4 linear feet, Boxes 35-39 and oversize Box 50, contains a variety of materials such as essays, short stories, commentaries for a WUOM radio program with Alan Cheuse, early writings from the late 1950s and early 1960s, articles for various magazines and newspapers such as Travel Holiday and Harper's, reviews on Delbanco's writings, reviews by Delbanco, and unidentified writings. Autobiographical and biographical materials are also located here as well as interviews with, Kurt Delbanco, Bernard Greenhouse, and Amy Tan. This subseries contains some materials for which it is undetermined whether publication occurred.
The Manuscripts by Others subseries, 1 linear foot of materials, in Box 40, contains writings by Robert Boyers, an article by Thomas and Andrew Delbanco (brothers of Nicholas), Jim Landis (friend and editor at William Morrow), and Stewart O'Nan, fellow author. These writings were submitted to Delbanco for his professional review; the reviews are included here.
The Personal series encompasses 1.5 linear feet of a variety of materials, Boxes 40-41, that pertain to Delbanco's childhood, education, and family. There is correspondence with his brothers, mother, father, uncle, and grandmother; also, marriage telegrams, birthday cards, and get well cards addressing his hospital stay and surgical procedure due to heart problems in 2003. Materials collected while at Fieldston, Harvard University, and Columbia University include correspondence, yearbooks, publications, ephemera, and writings. There are limited marriage, financial, and selective service records. Fifteen folders contain photographs of family, friends, travel, and professional portraits. A diary and handwritten journals contain notes and writings dated 1958 through 1966, with some undated material also. In oversize Box 50, inside Sketchbook #2, is a story written and signed by Delbanco as a very young child.
The Professional series contains 3.5 linear feet of material, Boxes 42-45, divided into subseries: Bennington College, Skidmore College, University of Michigan, Associations and Workshops, and Ephemera.
The Bennington College and Skidmore College subseries' include mainly class notes, professional correspondence relating to his academic positions, clippings, and thoughtful, detailed reviews of student work by Delbanco.
The University of Michigan subseries includes class notes, professional correspondence relating to Delbanco's academic status, clippings, lecture notes, certificates of awards and honorary degrees, and over 40 folders containing Delbanco's commentaries on student works, both at undergraduate and graduate levels. Comments on students' works provided by Delbanco are referred to as "comments"; year end evaluations of classes by students are referred to as "class evaluations". Some students are Hopwood Awards winners. There is commentary in this subseries between Delbanco and Elizabeth Kostova regarding her work for the MFA Program and debut novel, The Historian, which won an award for best Novel in Progress through the Hopwood Awards Program, and went on to be purchased for 2 million dollars by Little Brown and Company in 2004.(See Fiction, Comments, 2002.) Also included are speeches and correspondence regarding the Hopwood Awards Program.
The Associations and Workshops subseries contains correspondence, applications, meeting and agenda documents, ephemera, judging and recommendations notes and documents, and fellowship and grant awards information. Bennington Summer Writing Workshops (with photographs), Bread Loaf Writer's Conferences, Pen/Faulkner, the National Book Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the NY Writers Institute are highlighted.
The Ephemera subseries contains flyers and pamphlets that relate to Delbanco's appearances, readings, and publications. There are also catalogues of trade publications and in oversize Box 50, 6 posters.
The Computer Disks series contains unidentified 3.5" and 5.25" floppy disks.
The Clippings series is arranged by decade and contains articles and reviews written about and by Delbanco from the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Ann Arbor News, etc. Reviews and articles can be found with related subjects as well throughout the collection in related files.