Wash. U. Libraries acquires collection of Joy Williams’ work

Kathleen White | Staff Reporter

The Washington University Libraries acquired American author Joy Williams’ work as part of their Special Literature Collection Jan. 22.

The collection of the writer’s work includes manuscripts, drafts, journals, correspondences and future papers. According to Joel Minor, Special Collections curator of modern literature/manuscripts, Joy Williams’ relationship with the University made the acquisition even more meaningful.

A photo of Joy Williams, dated from the 1980s, shows the writer in her home. Williams’ manuscripts, drafts, journals, correspondences and future papers were acquired by the University.Courtesy of Wash. U. Libraries

A photo of Joy Williams, dated from the 1980s, shows the writer in her home. Williams’ manuscripts, drafts, journals, correspondences and future papers were acquired by the University.

“I knew that [Williams] was an author who would be attractive to us because she has a long history as a visiting professor here at the University,” Minor said. “She’s been good friends with some of the more famous writers here like William Gass, Stanley Elkin and then William Gaddis.”

English department faculty members Kathryn Davis, Danielle Dutton, Marshall Klimasewiski and Dave Schuman wrote a three-page letter of support for the acquisition of the Williams’ collection.

“This is a writer who will be read and taught for as long as we can foresee. To have her permanently and prominently associated with Washington University in this way would not only bring significant scholarly and pedagogical value, it would be a source of prestige for the university on par with our association with William Gass. There may not be another living writer whose archive we would be more enthusiastic to obtain,” they wrote.

Minor believes the acquisition of Williams’ work will not only attract more writers and attention to the literature collection, but also produce collaborative efforts with the writing program to bring Williams to campus for different events.

“[An] appealing thing for me in collecting her work is her accessibility to a popular audience. Her stories are very thought-provoking and they stick with you,” Minor said. “She has a very engaging style that picks up interesting mundane details about someone’s life but puts it together in a way that makes it different.”

Once the Williams’ papers have been archived, they will be available to the public by mid-year or the start of next semester.

“I would encourage not only students but faculty, of course, to arrange for visits. We are open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and welcome visitors,” Minor said.

Minor hopes to bring Williams to campus for a reading once the archives open.

“Sometimes our collections have a stigma—as special collections often do—that they’re museum pieces ,and they’re off limits, and you have to have special privileges. But that’s not the case,” Minor said. “We’re really excited to not only get her papers, but to be associated with Joy: She’s really a warm, friendly, helpful, generous person—and she really loves Wash. U.”