Richard McCann papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

American author Richard McCann is an award-winning writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Richard John McCann was born in 1949 to Richard Joseph McCann (1910-1961) and Marie Dolores McCann Key (née Perazzo, 1913-1998). He attended Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, earned his BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, an MA in Creative Writing and Modern Literature from Hollins College, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa. McCann taught film history, film theory, and American literature for the University of Maryland European Division on U.S. military bases in Spain, Italy, and Germany. In 1982-1983, he was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Göteborgs universitet in Sweden.

Richard McCann has received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, on whose board of trustees he served from 2000-2008. He serves on the board of directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and is a member of the Corporation of Yaddo.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, McCann devoted himself to creative writing, though he also continued to teach and write reviews. In 1994, he wrote Ghost Letters , a collection of poems and winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award and Capricorn Poetry Award. In the same year his work Nights of 1990 was published. In 1997, McCann published Things Shaped in Passing: More 'Poets for Life' Writing from the AIDS Pandemic , which gathered the works of poets whose writings have been affected by the AIDS epidemic.

His fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly , Ms. Magazine , Tin House , Ploughshares , The Nation , and Washington Post Magazine , as well as numerous anthologies such as Best American Essays 2000 , The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories , Contemporary Writers on Childhood , and Worlds of Fiction . This includes the group of interconnected stories that came together to form the 2005 novel, Mother of Sorrows , a work of fiction based partially on his own family life and experiences growing up in 1950s Maryland. "The Resurrectionist," McCann's memoir exploring his 1996 experience as an organ transplant recipient, is a work in progress.


"Richard McCann." (accessed March 25, 2010).

Biographical information derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Richard McCann papers document the personal life and professional career of this American author, poet, and educator. The collection includes McCann's early creative writing; teaching materials; reviews, essays, and critical writing; personal and professional correspondence; and extensive drafts of McCann's poetry and fiction. McCann's fiction has autobiographical roots, often drawn from family relationships and personal experiences, as illustrated in photographs and family memorabilia also included in the collection. Organized in seven series, the collection contains 13.2 linear feet of material, and spans the dates 1920-2008 (bulk dates 1978-2005). Series I. contains material documenting McCann's early (pre-1980) creative writing, poetry, and review work. Included are early works of poetry and short stories written by McCann as well as publications containing these works. Much of the material dates from McCann's undergraduate and graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia; Hollins College, in Roanoke, Virginia; and the University of Iowa, respectively. The series includes copies of The Richmond Mercury , for which McCann wrote film and book reviews. Also included are three editions of Quantum , the yearbook of Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, which McCann attended, and three diplomas (VCU, Hollins College, and University of Iowa). Other academic materials include student papers written by McCann and several school publications.

Series II. documents McCann's academic career as a literature and creative writing professor and contains lecture notes, syllabi, assignments, and subject files on American authors. There are research notes on the subjects of film theory and American literature, which were taught by McCann while he was with the University of Iowa, the University of Maryland European Division, American University, and while he was the Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Göteborgs universitet. The series also features a significant amount of research notes on various American authors, from the 18th century to the present.

Series III. documents Richard McCann's writing career, beginning in 1974, and illustrates his contributions to the field of gay literature and his involvement in the HIV/AIDS awareness movement. Subseries III. A. contains drafts and manuscripts of books written by McCann as well as drafts of the short stories and dissertation (Bordertown) that coalesced into the novel Mother of Sorrows . The series documents the nearly twenty-year creative process that led to the publication of the book. There are a large number of drafts, excerpts, manuscripts, and proofs of Mother of Sorrows itself, dating from the late 1990s to 2004. Also included are drafts of other fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written by McCann, including unpublished stories, an interview with prominent gay writer Edmund White, and reviews of works on and by other gay writers and activists.

Subseries III.B. features the published works of McCann from 1978-2008, listed in chronological order with bibliographic citations. The subseries includes several anthologies in which McCann's fiction and non-fiction appears, as well as work featured in a wide variety of magazines, literary journals, and newspapers. In addition to poetry and fiction, the subseries includes reviews and essays. The subseries also contains two undated articles written by McCann.

Series IV. consists of material written by others, including fiction and non-fiction, reviews and publicity of McCann's work, and several references to McCann. Subseries IV. A. contains several works written by other authors, including poet Marie Howe, American University professor Kermit Moyer, and the award-wining gay poet Mark Doty. The subseries also includes literature focusing on the AIDS epidemic.

Subseries IV.B. contains reviews of and publicity for various published works by McCann. The material is organized by publishing project, with the majority being reviews and publicity for Mother of Sorrows . Included are several French and Italian articles about the novel. The third subseries features literature that references McCann, including an article on his organ transplant, an analysis of themes in his poetry, and a unique book of art for which McCann "posed."

Series V. documents other activities McCann participated in during his career, especially through creative communities such as the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown or Yaddo. Subseries V. A. contains literature related to awards received by McCann for his work, publishing contracts, editorial correspondence, and grant proposals. Included is a research proposal for his memoir The Resurrectionist . Subseries V. B. contains material dating from 1985-2008 related to the many writer's workshops and literary conferences attended by McCann. The bulk of the subseries consists of publicity for workshops and conference programs, with many programs being from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Series VI. contains personal correspondence written to McCann between 1976 and 2008. Access to the first twelve folders of material is restricted until 2020. Correspondence in the rest of the series includes letters from the Corporation of Yaddo, e-mail correspondence, and letters from fellow authors, colleagues, and friends. Much of the correspondence is organized alphabetically by the sender. Many of the people listed are also notable writers and poets. The correspondence is of an informal and personal nature and demonstrates McCann's long-standing personal relationships with other American writers such as Karen Kevorkian and Marie Howe.

Series VII. contains material related to McCann's family history and personal life as well as various memorabilia and artifacts. The first subseries contains photographs ranging from early family photos to contemporary. The family photographs and photographs of homes as well as photographs of friends are identified and often dated by McCann, indicating strong personal association of memories with the images.

The second subseries contains a document detailing McCann family history as well as several publications created by family members. Included are an unfinished novel by Richard Joseph McCann, an unpublished memoir by Marie Dolores McCann, and a 1927 newsletter created and printed by the Perazzo (Marie McCann's) family. The final subseries contains calendars and appointment books belonging to McCann, items from his childhood, memorabilia and heirlooms belonging to his mother's family and his father's family, and items relating to his organ transplant. There are also items relating to his career activities and interests. Several of the artifacts, especially those belonging to his mother, are mentioned in McCann's stories.