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William K. Wimsatt, Jr. Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS469


  • 1941 - 1975
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1975

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Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

William Kurtz Wimsatt Jr. was born in Washington, DC on November 17, 1907. He was the son of William Kurtz Wimsatt Sr. and Bertha (McSherry) Wimsatt. Wimsatt attended Georgetown University, where he received his A.B. (summa cum laude) in 1928 and his A.M. in 1929. He subsequently received a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1939. After serving as head of the English department of Portsmouth Priory School in Portsmouth, Rhode Island from 1930 until 1935, Wimsatt spent the rest of his career in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University. He served as instructor from 1939 until 1943, assistant professor from 1943 until 1949, associate professor from 1949 until 1955, and professor of English from 1955 until 1975. Wimsatt achieved the distinction of Frederick Clifford Ford Professor of English from 1965, holding the title until 1974, and was named Sterling Professor of English (1974-1975). He also served as a fellow of Silliman College from 1941 until 1975. Wimsatt was a member of several organizations, such as the Modern Language Association of America (member of executive committee, 1955-58), the English Institute (supervising committee chairman, 1954), and the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences (former president). Wimsatt's awards include Guggenheim fellowship (1947), Ford Foundation Fund for Advancement of Education fellowship (1953-54), and Yale University senior faculty fellowship (1960-61). Wimsatt was a literary theorist who sought to isolate poetry from both the intentions of the poet and the emotional reactions of the reader. Thus, poetry would become what Wimsatt called "a verbal icon." This idea contradicted what Wimsatt's contemporaries asserted, and as a result, Wimsatt was compelled to argue for and defend his views. Wimsatt married Margaret Elizabeth Hecht in September of 1944. They had two children; Willian Alexander (deceased), and James Christopher. His interests outside of literature included chess, painting, and collecting Indian artifacts. Wimsatt died on December 17, 1975 in New Haven, Connecticut. Books by W.K. Wimsatt, Jr. include: The Prose Style of Samuel Johnson (1941); Philosophic Words (1948); (editor) Alexander Pope, Selected Poetry and Prose (1951); The Verbal Icon (1954); (editor) English Stage Comedy: English Institute Essays, 1954 (1955); (co-author) Literary Criticism: A Short History (1957); (co-editor) Boswell for the Defense (1959); (editor) Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare (1960); (editor) Explication as Criticism: Selected Papers from the English Institute (1963); Hateful Contraries (1965); The Portraits of Alexander Pope (1965); (editor) The Idea of Comedy (1969); (editor) Versification: Major Language Types (1972); (editor) Literary Criticism: Idea and Act (1974); Day of the Leopards: Essays in Defense of Poems (1976); and (co-editor) Samuel Johnson: Selected Poetry and Prose (1978).


1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes )

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Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. William K. Wimsatt Jr., 1976. Processed by Ryan M. Walker, April 1997. Size: 3 boxes, 1.5 linear feet Status: Open

William K. Wimsatt, Jr. Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057