George Marion O'Donnell was born January 21, 1914, on the Silver Home
Plantation near Midnight, Mississippi. Upon graduating from the Belzoni,
Mississippi, high school in 1932, he entered Memphis State University.
In 1934, he transferred to Vanderbilt University, where he was influenced
by several well-known Southern literary figures, including Allen Tate,
Cleanth Brooks, and Andrew Lytle. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English
from Vanderbilt in 1936 and continued his graduate studies there, receiving
the Master of Arts in 1939.
Having completed his studies, O'Donnell embarked upon a career as a college
English professor and writer. As a teacher, he specialized in modern literature
and creative writing, but also taught a variety of classes ranging from
freshman composition to world literature, arts, and philosophy. He spent
1939-40 at Vanderbilt as a fellow in creative writing. From 1941 to 1945,
he taught at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), then
served as a guest instructor at Harvard University from 1945 to 1947.
After two years as an assistant professor at Louisiana State University
in Baton Rouge, O'Donnell was appointed to a professorship at Oglethorpe
University near Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught from 1947 to 1957.
The papers of George Marion O'Donnell date from approximately the 1870s
to 1982. The bulk of the collection, however, dates from the 1940s and
1950s. It includes O'Donnell's correspondence, journals, and daybooks,
which reflect his interest in modern literature and the influence of several
Vanderbilt and other Southern literary figures over his own work. His
correspondence includes one letter each from Allen Tate, John Peale Bishop,
and Harriet Owsley, and a brief scribbled note from John Crowe Ransom.
His journals from the 1930s and letters from friends and colleagues in
the 1940s, however, often mention Tate and Ransom, along with Andrew Lytle,
Cleanth Brooks, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Katherine Anne Porter.
Two photograph albums include numerous pictures of these literary figures,
notably of Tate and Welty, but also of Porter, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg,
and William Faulkner. O'Donnell's literary career is further documented
by the manuscripts and published versions of many of his poems, stories,
essays, and reviews included in this collection. Lecture notes provide
a glimpse into his teaching career.