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Philip F. O'Connor Collection - MS 724

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


The Philip F. O'Connor Papers were transferred to the Center for Archival Collections over the course of several months in 1993-1994. The collection consists of personal and professional correspondence; subject files relating to professional organizations, the Bowling Green State University Creative Writing Program and publishing; literary manuscripts; and a book collection, reflecting the personal and professional interests of author and university professor Philip F. O'Connor.

No restrictions exist on the research use of this collection, although researchers bear the responsibility for securing copyright permission for copying and quoting from unpublished manuscripts. The finding aid was prepared by Lee McLaird, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, in October 1997.

Biographical Sketch

Philip F. O'Connor was born in San Francisco, California on December 3, 1932, the oldest of three children of John Joseph and Josephine (Browne) O'Connor. He attended St. Ignatius Preparatory School and earned a B. S. at the University of San Francisco in 1954. During his army service, he was stationed in England and was honorably discharged as a second lieutenant. Returning to his home town, he worked as a journalist for the San Francisco News and taught high school English for four years, as well as working at a variety of odd jobs while he earned a Master of Arts degree in English from San Francisco State College in 1961. He decided on a career as a professional writer, and earned an M.F.A. from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 1963. That same year he married Delores Doster. Their children were Dondi, John, Chris, Erin, and Justin. The couple divorced in 1978.

O'Connor taught English at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam, New York from 1963-1967, all the while publishing his short stories in the best literary magazines and building a reputation as a fine prose craftsman. In 1967, Frederick Eckman invited O'Connor to Bowling Green State University to establish a degree-granting Creative Writing Program at this institution. Here he spent his academic career, serving as director of the program and as writer in residence, conducting workshops in the novel and short story. In 1989 his efforts and service were recognized when he was named Distinguished University Professor.

While at Bowling Green, O'Connor continued his own writing. He published two collections of short stories, the first, Old Morals, Small Continents, Darker Times, won the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction in 1971. A second collection, A Season for Unnatural Causes, was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1975. During this period, O'Connor shifted his focus from the short story to the novel. He published Stealing Home (nominated as the American Book Awards Best First Novel, winning the Nancy Dasher Award for Best Ohio Fiction Writer of the Year, and chosen as a Book of the Month Club alternate selection) in 1979; Ohio Woman (which won an Ohioana Award) in 1985; Defending Civilization (winning the McNaughton Award and nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award in 1988), and Finding Brendan in 1991. Each of his books has been released to critical acclaim.

All this was accomplished while O'Connor continued to conduct classes and participate in the life of the university. He worked tirelessly as a member of two Pulitzer Award committees, meeting and speaking with literary groups, high school students, and as a visiting writer at other universities. He married Martha Larson in 1994 and retired from teaching duties to write full time.

Scope and Content

The Philip F. O'Connor Collection consists of personal and professional correspondence, literary manuscripts, and subject and clipping files, mostly dating from the 1960s to 1994.

The personal correspondence files are very extensive and consist primarily of incoming letters to O'Connor from former students, family, and friends. They document the ongoing relationship between O'Connor and the writers whose work he nurtured. Although there is very little outgoing correspondence in this series, researchers will still get a good idea of O'Connor himself through reading the letters addressed to him. A section of professional correspondence reveals the efforts O'Connor made in recruiting visiting writers to the BGSU campus as well as his work with professional organizations such as the Associated Writing Programs. A very interesting group of letters is the correspondence between O'Connor and his literary agents and publishers as he submitted work for consideration and through the publication process. Researchers will get a detailed view of the entire publication process, from initial idea through hardback and paperback sales, to negotiations for motion picture and television production.

Another series of great interest to researchers is the literary manuscripts. O'Connor was a meticulous re-writer and editor of his own work. Manuscripts of most of his work, from early draft through finished product are available for study here. Early undergraduate and graduate papers reveal his thoughts on literature as he decided on a career in writing. Essays and speeches made by O'Connor on the history of the Creative Writing Program, his thoughts on literature, and university-related concerns offer a fuller perspective on his working methods and goals, both in terms of literature and in the academic sphere. These works were written throughout his teaching career. The poetry and short stories were produced, for the most part, between 1963-1975. After 1975, O'Connor concentrated his efforts on his novels. Researchers can trace the evolution of the themes which interested him--personal faith, family relationships, the moral responsibility of the individual to society, and the special value of each human being--as well as the development of a theme from short story treatment to full novel. Following this series are manuscripts submitted by his graduate students, mostly for the novel or fiction workshops O'Connor conducted. Here can be found the early efforts of many successful writers who began their careers at Bowling Green. Researchers should be aware that these are unpublished manuscripts whose copyright is held by the original author.

News clippings include reviews of O'Connor's published work, as well as interviews and profiles of the author which appeared in local, regional, and national newspapers and magazines. A few clippings on subjects of interest to O'Connor are also included. The collection is completed by the artwork drawn up for advertisements and dustjackets for his books.

Series Description


Arranged alphabetically.
Contains incoming correspondence from students, family, and friends (very little outgoing correspondence).

Arranged alphabetically.
Contains incoming and outgoing correspondence, primarily dealing with the Creative Writing Program's Visiting Writer series. Notable names include Donald Barthelme, Vince Bourjaily, Stanley Elkin, Leslie Fiedler, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Arranged chronologically and within, alphabetically by publisher or name.
Contains incoming and outgoing correspondence dealing with submission of manuscripts and the publication process.


Arranged alphabetically.
Contains correspondence, minutes, programs, course materials, off-campus academic programs, and bibliographies of O'Connor's work.


Arranged by type of work, then alphabetically by title.
Includes O'Connor's undergraduate and graduate papers submitted for literature courses (dating between the 1950s and 1964), essays, introductions, reviews, speeches (scattered throughout his career), poetry (mostly dating between 1960-1975), O'Connor's writing journal, short stories (mostly dating between 1960-1975), novels (mostly dating after 1975), and other prose fragments, from early drafts through final form. In all cases, the titles used are working titles, taken from the manuscript or its original file folder.

Arranged alphabetically by author.
Includes manuscripts submitted by graduate students in O'Connor's fiction workshops. Some of these works were eventually published in literary magazines or form the basis of later, longer works.


Arranged alphabetically by title.
Includes galleys and tearsheets of published works.

Arranged alphabetically by author.
Includes proofs and tearsheets of published works.

Arranged alphabetically by title.
Includes copies of periodicals in which O'Connor's work appears, as well as Bowling Green State University literary magazines, and periodical issues in which work of BGSU alumni appears. Periodicals have been incorporated into the Special Collection B holdings. See Rare Books Division office for a complete list.

For complete bibliographic information, see the on-line catalog.

Arranged alphabetically by work reviewed.
Includes newspaper and magazine articles reviewing O'Connor's work.

Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Includes newspaper and magazine articles of interest to O'Connor, mostly dealing with the subjects of his books.

Arranged alphabetically.
Includes programs, press releases, newsletters, publishers' catalogs, and whole issues of periodicals specifically dealing with O'Connor or the BGSU Creative Writing Program.


Arranged by type of material.
Includes photographs of O'Connor and cover designs for his books as well as paste-ups for advertisements.


Note: For detailed listings of correspondents and manuscript authors, please consult the register in the Center for Archival Collections reference area.

Box 1: Personal Correspondence, A-C

Box 2: Personal Correspondence, D-Ha

Box 3: Personal Correspondence, He-Mc

Box 4: Personal Correspondence, Ma-O'Connor Family

Box 5: Personal Correspondence, O'Connor, J-P

Box 6: Personal Correspondence, R-U

Box 7: Personal Correspondence, V-Z, unsigned; Subject Correspondence, BGSU Visiting Writer Series

Box 8: Subject Correspondence, Publishers and Agents, 1964-1975

Box 9: Subject Correspondence, Publishers and Agents, 1976-1994; Subject Files, Associated Writing Programs

Box 10: Subject Files; Manuscripts by O'Connor, academic papers ca. 1950-1966

Box 11: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, essays, speeches, poetry

Box 12: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, journals, short stories A-C

Box 13: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, short stories, D-F

Box 14: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, short stories, G-L

Box 15: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, short stories, M-N

Box 16: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, short stories O-untitled, notes

Box 17: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Abby's Father

Box 18: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Abby's Father-Carmody

Box 19: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Clowns

Box 20: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Cononr, novel, Defending Civilization

Box 21: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Defending Civilization

Box 22: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Defending Civilization

Box 23: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Defending Civilization

Box 24: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Finding Brendan

Box 25: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, J-Mastodon

Box 26: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Mastodon

Box 27: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Mastodon

Box 28: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Mastodon

Box 29: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Ohio Woman-Stealing Home

Box 30: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Stealing Home

Box 31: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, novel, Stealing Home-Suburbs of the Heart

Box 32: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, Suburbs of the Heart

Box 33: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, Suburbs of the Heart-Voice of the Bird

Box 34: Manuscripts by Philip F. O'Connor, untitled; Manuscripts by Students A-Bra

Box 35: Manuscripts by Students, Bri-E

Box 36: Manuscripts by Students, F-H

Box 37: Manuscripts by Students, I-Ma

Box 38: Manuscripts by Students, Ma-Q

Box 39: Manuscripts by Students, R-S

Box 40: Manuscripts by Students, T-Z

Box 41: Clippings, Printed Material

Box 42: Printed Material, Reviews, Subject Clippings

Box 43: Printed Material, Miscellaneous Printed Material, Artwork


A complete list of periodicals is available through the Rare Books Department.

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