Professor Carlos Dews on Carson McCullers Lecture Tour in Australia
English professor Carlos Dews, a leading authority on the life and work of Carson McCullers, on sabbatical leave from JCU, is currently on a lecture tour in Australia on various topics related to the American author. On November 21, he will be giving a seminar on “Carson McCullers’s Relationship to Psychiatry and Psychotherapy” at the University of Melbourne. On November 23, he will be at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where he will be speaking about his ongoing project editing the Selected Letters of Carson McCullers for publication in 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. On November 27, Prof. Dews heads to the Centre for Stories in Perth, where he will be delivering the lecture on his relationship with the life and work of Carson McCullers. Lastly, on November 28-30, Professor Dews will be participating in the Australasian Associated Writing Programs (AAWP) conference, where he will be on a panel with Professors Elizabeth Geoghegan (long-time Adjunct Professor at JCU) and Susan Bradley Smith (Professor at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, but also sometime Adjunct Professor of Poetry Writing at JCU). Their panel is titled Grace, Lost & Found: Writers on the Run (an Experiment) and explores what part Rome plays in the participants’ imaginations as writers.
Carson McCullers (1917-1967) is an important author of American southern literature who became famous in the 1940s. She wrote novels, short stories, poetry, essays and screenplays, and her main themes were love, loneliness, and the treatment of outsiders by society. One of her most known novels is The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter about a deaf man and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the American state of Georgia.
“By telling her story I find that I am often telling my own,” says Professor Dews in an interview with the Centre for Stories. He says that he always felt a strong connection both with her inspiring life and with her frequent struggles.
Professor Dews has been researching McCullers for almost thirty years. He edited McCullers’s unfinished autobiography Illumination and Night Glare, and numerous other works. More recently, Professor Dews has embarked on a worldwide search for all of McCullers’s existing correspondence. The personal relationships that Dews has developed with those who were touched by McCullers during her life and the gratifying detective work are considered by Professor Dews to be the most interesting aspects of his work.
The most challenging aspect of Dews’s work was convincing McCullers’s friends and family to trust him. “It took me almost nine years to convince McCullers’s attorney and agent, two of her literary executors, to allow me to pursue publication of her unfinished autobiography,” said professor Dews in his interview with the Centre for Stories. At the beginning of his career, his goal was to champion McCullers as one of America’s most important writers of the twentieth century and to ensure that her work remained vital in American literary studies.
Prof. Dews’s next project involves writing a memoir about his relationship with McCullers’s life and work. “My talk at the Centre for Stories is my first attempt to speak about this relationship in detail,” said Professor Dews in the previously mentioned interview. Carson McCullers “left a wealth of archival material behind that continues to surprise and interest not only me but all her readers” explains Professor Dews to the Center for Stories.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to travel to Australia to speak about my research on the life and work of Carson McCullers, as there is considerable interest in McCullers there. And I am especially happy to be able to participate, while there, on a panel with my friends and fellow professors Geoghegan and Bradley Smith, where we will be able to speak about what part Rome plays in our imaginations as writers.”
Founding Director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, Professor Dews was also the Founding President of the Carson McCullers Society, an organization of scholars dedicated to research on McCullers’s life and work.