A Recollection of Wallace Stegner

By Kenneth Fields, a Professor of Creative Writing at Stanford University

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wallace Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. He taught at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. Eventually Stegner settled at Stanford University, where he founded the creative writing program. He served as a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and was elected to the Sierra Club's board of directors for a term that lasted 1964–1966. He also moved into a house in nearby Los Altos Hills and became one of the town's most prominent residents.

Stegner's novel Angle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972. Stegner also won the National Book Award for The Spectator Bird in 1977. Stegner's non-fiction works include Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West (1954), a biography of John Wesley Powell, who was the first man to explore the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and later served as a government scientist and advocate of water conservation in the American West.

When Kenneth Fields came to Stanford in 1963 as a graduate student in English, Wallace Stegner ruled the roost. He had founded the Creative Writing Program and was a celebrated novelist and a master of nonfictional prose; he was widely known beyond the English department, from the president of the university on up. He was also what we would call today an environmentalist, though preservationist might be a better word. His still-famous “Wilderness Letter” from 1960 played a large part in the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

About the Author

Kenneth Fields' collections of poetry are The Other Walker, Sunbelly, Smoke, The Odysseus Manuscripts, and Anemographia: A Treatise on the Wind. He has completed the manuscripts of two other collections: Classic Rough News and Music from Another Room. His current projects are a novel, Father of Mercies, and a collection of essays on Mina Loy, H.D., Yvor Winters, Janet Lewis, J.V. Cunningham, Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Ben Jonson, Wallace Stevens, Jorge Luis Borges, Henri Coulette, and others.

Fields teaches the Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop for the Stanford Writing Fellows. He is developing a two-part course in American film, Men in the Movies: Film Noir and the Western. He delivered the Russel B. Nye Lecture at Michigan State University's American Studies Program: "There Stands the Glass: Voices of Alcohol in Country Music."

Current Year's Courses:

Stanford Writers
Whitman and Dickinson and 20th C Poets
Eros in Modern American Poetry
Graduate Poetry Workshop







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