Our Literary Tradition

Maurice Manning

Enjoying what one contemporary poet calls our “remoteness without cultural dislocation,” Sewanee is a place of literary cultivation, where writers gather to study, learn, and perfect their craft, and where work takes root and spreads well beyond our community. Many writers have come here to live and work, including William Alexander Percy, Allen Tate, Andrew Lytle, Robert Penn Warren, Peter Taylor, Eleanor Ross Taylor, Monroe Spears, Katherine Anne Porter, Walker Percy, James Agee, Caroline Gordon, Jean Stafford, Randall Jarrell, Ford Madox Ford, Robert Lowell, and more recently Andrew Hudgins, Erin McGraw, Wyatt Prunty, Richard Tillinghast, and Kevin Wilson.

In 1983, Tennessee Williams, American playwright and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, left the residual portion of his estate to the University of the South as a memorial to his grandfather, the Reverend Walter E. Dakin, who studied at Sewanee’s School of Theology in 1895. Mr. Williams directed in his will that a fund be established to encourage creative writing. This fund, for which many have been grateful, supports the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

The Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund also supports a growing number of writers-in-residencies by which Mark Richard, Elizabeth Dewberry, Tony Earley, Ann Patchett, Roberta Allen, Ron Fitzgerald, Daniel Anderson, A. Manette Ansay, Lisa Shea, Jessica Goldberg, Josip Novakovich, Claire Messud, Stephanie Fleischmann, William Gay, Thomas Moran, Daisy Foote, Richard Schmitt, Elwood Reid, Dan O’Brien, Tom Franklin, Leah Stewart, Hilary Bell, Kent Nelson, Arlene Hutton, Joe Osterhaus, Ellen Slezak, Dominic Taylor, Beth Lincks, Andy Bragen, Thomas Lakeman, David Roby, Elyzabeth Wilder, and Cheri Magid have conducted workshops in the college and pursued their own writing.

The Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund has made pos­sible two other undertakings. The Sewanee Writers’ Series, inaugurated in 1998, has published John Bricuth, Philip Stephens, Greg Williamson, Charles Martin, Andrew Hudgins, Daniel Mueller, Adrianne Harun, Lily Tuck, Richard Schmitt, Brent Benoit, Greg Williams, and Horton Foote. Also in 1998, the Tennessee Williams Performing Arts Center, an adaptable 150-seat theater that memorializes Mr. Williams art, opened in Sewanee.

The Sewanee Review

The Sewanee Review is the oldest continuously published literary quarterly in the country.  Since the mid-20th century, it has been one of the centers for contemporary letters, including modernist and now postmodernist critical debate, plus the discovery and nurturing of Flannery O’Connor, Peter Taylor, Cormac McCarthy, Andre Dubus, James Dickey, Richard Tillinghast, Wyatt Prunty, and numerous others currently contributing work.

Sewanee School of Letters

The Sewanee School of Letters is an innovative summer master’s degree program in English and creative writing with a highly distinguished faculty and small student body meeting for an intensive six-week term each summer. Inquiries may be directed to April Alvarez (aralvare@sewanee.edu or 931.598.1636).

Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference

The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference attracts high school writers from across the country for a two-week summer program to study playwriting, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Inquiries may be directed to Elizabeth Grammer (egrammer@sewanee.edu or 931.598.1541).