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Tennessee Authors (Special Collections): A-D

This research guide highlights primary sources and research materials about prominent authors in Tennessee.

James Agee

James Agee by Florence Homolka (MS.3200)

James Rufus Agee (1909-1955) was born to Hugh James and Laura Whitman (Tyler) Agee in Knoxville, Tennessee on November 27, 1909. Hugh Agee was killed in an automobile accident in 1916, leaving a deep impression on his young son. In 1918, Laura Agee moved James and his younger sister, Emma Farrand, to Sewanee, Tennessee where James attended the St. Andrews School. It was here that he met Father James Harold Flye, who had a profound influence on him. The Agees returned to Knoxville in 1924, and James Agee attended Knoxville High School during the 1924-25 school year. He continued on to Phillips Exeter Academy followed by Harvard University.

A parody written for The Harvard Advocate contributed to Agee's employment at Fortune Magazine. His first book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1940), was coauthored with photographer Walker Evans and grew out of an article for Fortune. Agee then wrote book and film reviews for Time before becoming a scriptwriter for television and movies, where he produced such famous works as The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955). Agee died on May 16, 1955, in New York City. At the time of his death, he had been working sporadically on a novel about his father's death for approximately 20 years. His good friend David McDowell completed the work, which was published as A Death in the Family in 1957. The book won Agee a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1958.

Agee's personal life included many lovers and three wives: Olivia Saunders (m. 1933), Alma Mailman (m. 1939), and Mia Fritsch (m. 1945). Alma bore his first son Joel (b. 1940), and Mia gave him Theresa (b. 1946), Deedee (b. 1950), and John (b. 1954).

Select Manuscript Resources 

Other Resources

  • Permit Me Voyage. 1934 (PS3501.G35 P4 1934)
  • Encounters: An Anthology From the First Ten Years of Encounter Magazine. 1963 (PR1149 .E55)
  • Four Early Stories by James Agee. 1963 (PS3501.G35 F6 1963)
  • Letters of James Agee to Father Flye. 1964 (PS3501 .G35 Z54 1964)
  • Agee on Film. 1969 (PN1993.5 .A1 A35 1969)
  • Knoxville: Summer of 1915. 1983? (PS3501.G35 K55)
  • James Agee: Literary Notebooks and Other Manuscripts. 2002 (PS3501 .G35 A6 2002)

Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell (1957- ) was born on August 1, 1957, to Georgia Allen and Henry Denmark Bell in Nashville, Tennessee. He attended Princeton University and won several literary prizes while an undergraduate student. He went on to earn his master's degree in creative writing from Hollins College in 1981. Bell has written thirteen novels including The Washington Square Ensemble (1983), Straight Cut (1986), The Year of Silence (1989), and All Souls' Rising (1995). His novel Soldier's Joy won the Lillian Smith Award in 1989, and All Souls' Rising was a finalist for both the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award. Since 1984, Bell has been a professor of English at Goucher College where he teaches creative writing.


  • The Washington Square Ensemble. 1983 (PS3552.E517 W37 1983b)
  • Straight Cut. 1986 (PS3552.E517 S7 1986b)
  • Soldier's Joy. 1989 (PS3552.E517 S65 1989)
  • Barking Man and Other Stories. 1990 (PS3552.E517 B37 1990)
  • All Souls' Rising. 1995 (PS3552.E517 A45 1995)

Maristan Chapman

Maristan Chapman was the pseudonym of husband and wife writers Mary Ilsley Chapman (1895-1978) and John Stanton Chapman (1891-1972). Mary was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1895 while John was born in London, England in 1891. The couple met in England where Mary was working as a secretary during World War I. Following the war the couple moved to the United States and eventually settled in Sewanee, Tennessee. Their works focus on the life and culture of Southern highlanders and the history of Tennessee.


  • Homeplace. 1929 (PS3505.H43 H65 1929)
  • Imperial Brother: The Life of the Duc de Morny. 1931 (DC280.5.M7 C5)
  • The Weather Tree. 1932 (PS3505 .H43 W43 1932)
  • Glen Hazard. 1933 (PS3505 .H43 G54 1933)
  • Rogue's March. 1949 (PS3505.H43 R63)
  • Tennessee Hazard. 1953 (PS3505.H43 T4 1953)

Will Allen Dromgoole

Will Allen Dromgoole
Will Allen Dromgoole

Will Allen Dromgoole (1860-1934) was born to John Easter and Rebecca Mildred (Blanch) Dromgoole in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on October 25, 1860, the last of nine children. Her father named her William at the suggestion of a family friend, who believed that giving his most recent daughter a masculine name would alleviate his disappointment at her not having been born male. Will herself changed her middle name to Allen (from Anne) after seeing it on a sign and deciding that she preferred it to her own.

Dromgoole graduated from the Clarkeville Female Academy in 1876 and went on to study at the New England School of Expression in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a prolific author of novels, essays, plays, and poetry. Her first published work, The Sunny Side of the Cumberland, appeared in 1886. After she achieved recognition with Fiddling his Way to Fame in 1890, the Arena offered to publish her short stories. Dromgoole also wrote one of her most personal pieces, Rare Old Chums (which describes her life with her father after her mother's death), during this period. In addition to her writing, she served as engrossing clerk in the Tennessee State Senate (1885-1888), taught school in both Tennessee and Texas, and traveled widely.

Dromgoole was also a journalist and began her newspaper career in the early 1900s, writing for the Nashville World, the Nashville Daily American, the Nashville Banner, the Sunday South, and the New Orleans Picayune. The Nashville Banner hired her as a staff writer in 1902, and she began writing her popular column "Song and Story" the next year which examined the life and culture of Tennessee people. In 1917, the United States Navy recruited her as a warrant officer with a yeomanry rating. She never interrupted her column and resumed her career with the Banner when the war ended the following year. She became the paper's literary editor in 1922 and continued in this position until her death on September 1, 1934.

Manuscript Resources

Other Resources

  • The Malungeons. 1891 (E184 .M44 D76 1891a)
  • The Heart of Old Hickory, and Other Stories of Tennessee. 1895 (PS3507.R65 H4 1895)
  • The Fortunes of the Fellow. 1898 (PS3507.R65 F5 1898)
  • Harum-scarum Joe. 1899 (PS3507.R65 H36 1899)
  • A Moonshiner's Son. 1925 (PS3507.R65 M6 1925)

Wilma Dykeman

Wilma Dykeman
Wilma Dykeman

Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006), the only child of Bonnie Cole Dykeman and Willard Dykeman, was born in Asheville, North Carolina on May 20, 1920. She graduated from Biltmore Junior College in 1938 and from Northwestern University in 1940. That same year she married James R. Stokely II. She was introduced to James by Mabel Wolfe, the sister of author Thomas Wolfe. James was also a writer and the two wrote several books together.

Throughout her life, Dykeman was a writer, historian, journalist, and teacher. She authored several fiction and nonfiction works including The French Broad (1955), The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey (1962), and Return the Innocent Earth (1973). Most of her writing focuses on the Appalachian region and the impact of larger social issues including race and gender.

Select Manuscript Resources

Other Resources

  • Seeds of Southern Change. 1962 (CT275.A54 D8)
  • The Tall Woman. 1962 (PS3554.Y5 T3)
  • The French Broad. 1965 (F443.F8 D9 1965)
  • Southern Appalachian Books: An Annotated, Selected Bibliography. 1973 (Z1251.A7 D9)
  • Highland Homeland: The People of the Great Smokies. 1978 (F443.G7 D9)
  • Tennessee. 1979 (F437 .S33)