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The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

William Robert Irwin Papers
RG 99.0063
Collection Dates: 1932-1984
6.0 linear ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Copyright: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Acquisition and Processing Information: These materials were donated to the University Archives by William A. Irwin in July 1997. Guide created in May 2008.

Photographs: None

William R. Irwin, March 1956

William R. Irwin, March 1956

Scope and Contents

The William Robert Irwin papers are primarily reviews, essays, and manuscripts he produced throughout his career as a professor of English.  Correspondence, newspaper clippings, course notes, and departmental memos are also included.  An inventory, prepared by his son, William, is filed in Box 1.  Mr. Irwin's curriculum vitae has been removed from this collection and placed in his folder within the Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG 01.15.03).

Biographical Note

William Robert Irwin was born September 17, 1915, in Shenandoah, Iowa.  He received his B.A. degree in English from Grinnell College in 1936.  He took his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University in 1937 and 1941.  He taught English at Long Island University in Brooklyn and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, from 1938 until 1947.

Dr. Irwin joined the English faculty at the State University of Iowa as assistant professor in 1947, and was made full professor in 1962.  Irwin’s area of research was 18th Century English literature.  Dr. Irwin retired in 1986.

Irwin married Patricia Beesley in 1939 and they had a son, William Andrew, in 1944.  Following Patricia's death he married Constance H. Frick of Evansville, Indiana, in 1954.  The papers of Constance Irwin reside in the University of Iowa Women's Archives.   William R. Irwin died October 24, 1996.

[D. Anderson; 05/2008]

Related Materials

Folder, "Irwin, William Robert," Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG 01.15.03)

Records of the Dept. of English (RG 06.12.01)

Papers of John C. Gerber (RG 99.0062)

Papers of Constance Frick Irwin

Box Contents List

Box 1

"Heroes Fixed and Fluid: Backgrounds of the Novel of Education in America," typed essay, 1980

"Absalom and Achitophel," typed manuscript, 1979

"Critical Writing," course notes, spring 1979

"One Slip on a Mountain," typed manuscript and revisions, ca. 1979

"Mark Twain and Sigmund Freud on the Discontents of Civilization," typed manuscript, ca. 1979

"The Platitude and I," typed manuscript and revisions

"Xerox and the Quality of Life," typed manuscript, 1979

"From Static to Dynamic Characters...," typed manuscript, ca. 1981

"The Education of James Boswell," typed manuscript, ca. 1984

Final exam options for a course

"The Skeptic's Way to Faith," typed manuscript, ca. 1984

Review of "Whom the Gods Love Die Young," and letter to Harper's, 1979

"Some Thoughts on the Novel of Education in America," typed manuscript and revisions, ca. 1974. Two folders.

"Why do People and Things Cast Shadows...," handwritten draft

"Challenge: an Anthology of the Literature of Mountaineering," correspondence and reviews, 1950-1951

The Making of Jonathan Wild, correspondence and reviews, 1941


Review of two novels, The Towers of Trebizond and The Captive and the Free

Graduate program for Ph.D. in English, memorandum, December 13, 1967

"Risks," advice to young teachers of literature, 1980

"The New Heroism of Robinson Crusoe", typed essay, ca. 1982

"Modern Sources on Heroism," course material, 1978 [three folders]

"Intellectual Autobiography," for Fulbright application, ca. 1950

"Mark Twain as Humorist and Serious Thinker," typed essay, 1960

"Liberal Education and Employment," seminar material, 1980

Box 2

Evaluations of Irwin's courses, of books, and of students’ teaching abilities, 1979-1981

Correspondence with CBS News, 1967

Articles for Columbia Encyclopedia

"Dear Diary," Grinnell College essay contest, 1936

"An Analysis of the Dramatic Technique of the Introductions of Eight Shakespearean Tragedies," B.A. honors essay, 1936

"A Biography of William Kenrick, L.L.D.," M.A. thesis, 1937

Grinnell College and Columbia University transcripts

Drafts of articles on Fantasy [10 folders]

Outline of plot and characters in a play, "Do I Dare?"

Correspondence with the University of Washington Press regarding The Comic Style of Beaumarchais, 1960-1961

Courses Irwin taught, 1949-1968

Newsletter, English Department Notes for Alumni, February 1979

Course notes

Letters of recommendation, September 1942

"An Introduction to Fantasy," 1972

The Game of Impossible: A Rhetoric of Fantasy, reviews of

"Grace Abounding," typed carbon

Box 3

The Game of the Impossible: A Rhetoric of Fantasy, manuscript, 1976

Oversized Box 1

Degrees, diplomas and certificates, 1932-1941