Accession A2005-045 - Neil Besner Accrual

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Neil Besner Accrual

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  • Textual record

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CA UMASC MSS 211-A2005-045

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • 1972-2006; predominantly 1991-2006 (Creation)
    Besner, Neil Kalman

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Physical description

0.82 m of textual records, 12 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Neil Kalman Besner was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1949. He spent much of his childhood in Brazil after his family left Canada in the mid-1950s. He attended high school and began university in the United States but returned to Canada in 1970. He completed a B.A. (Honours English) at McGill University in 1972, an M.A. in American literature at the University of Regina in 1974, and a Ph.D. in Canadian literature at the University of British Columbia in 1983. His dissertation was titled Mavis Gallant's Short Fiction: History and Memory in the Light of Imagination. After four years as an instructor in English at Mount Royal College, he joined the faculty of the University of Winnipeg in 1987 as an assistant professor. He became an associate professor in 1990, chair of the Department of English in 1993, and full professor in 1995. After serving on the Board of Regents and on a number of administrative and academic committees, he became Dean of Humanities, University of Winnipeg on May 1, 2002. In 2010, Besner was appointed Provost and Vice President, Academic and International at the University of Winnpeg.

Besner has written The Light of Imagination: Mavis Gallant's Fiction (University of British Columbia Press, 1988), Introducing Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women (ECW Press, 1990), completed an English translation of Carmen Oliveira's Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares (Rutgers University Press, 2003), and edited The Short Story in English (Oxford University Press, 1991) with David Staines, and Uncommon Wealth: An Anthology of Poetry in English (Oxford University Press, 1997) with Deborah Schnitzer and Alden Turner. In 1995 he edited a special issue of Prairie Fire magazine that focused on Carol Shields. He later edited Carol Shields: The Arts of a Writing Life (Prairie Fire Press, 2003), which included works by many of the contributors to the special issue of Prairie Fire. In his role as president of the Linguistic Circle of Manitoba and North Dakota (LCMND), Dr. Besner provided an overview of Carol Shields' life and work in a speech entitled "The Great Canadian Shields" to the LCMND on October 28, 1994. The text of this speech can be found in the Linguistic Circle of Manitoba and North Dakota fonds (MSS SC 166). Dr. Besner has also authored numerous scholarly articles and reviews and provided commentary to CBC Radio and the Winnipeg Free Press. Dr. Besner speaks French, Spanish and Portuguese in addition to English. As of 2007, his primary area of interest continued to be Canadian literature.

Custodial history

The fonds was donated by Neil Kalman Besner to the Department of Archives & Special Collections in July of 2005; accession number A.05-45, in 2007; accession number A.07-03, and in 2010; accession number A.10.21.

Scope and content

The fonds is divided into twelve series created by donor: curriculum vitae; published articles; notes and correspondence for the translation of Rare and Commonplace Flowers; correspondence regarding Uncommon Wealth; correspondence and contributors’ submissions to the Carol Shields issue of Prairie Fire and to Carol Shields: The Arts of a Writing Life; reading scripts for unpublished lectures and addresses; an unpublished short story and unpublished novel; a file marked “miscellaneous” by donor, containing cards, certificates, poems and some correspondence; letters to donor from writers and critics; two colour photographs and copies of books written or edited by donor.

Significance: Donor’s career as a critic, editor, and translator and as an author of fiction is the primary focus of fonds, as is his professional contact with other academics, writers and critics. His career as a university administrator is alluded to through the text of his convocation and introductory addresses. Neither his practice and philosophy of teaching, nor his personal life, is apparent in this fonds.

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This collection is arranged into nine series, a 2005 accession (A.05-45), PC 188, a 2007 accession (A.07-03), and a 2010 accession (A.10-21)

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There are no restrictions on this material.

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Associated materials

MSS SC 166, Linguistic Circle of Manitoba and North Dakota fonds

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General note

A2005-045 Box 3, File 1 and 2 both titled "Xerox of Draft: Feldman's Dream: A Novel, 1977" were removed and returned to the donor. They were identical copies of the drafts in box 2. Removed by Brian Hubner, January 2020.

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Inventory prepared by Ian Keenan and Vladimira Zvonik. Finding aid prepared by Vladimira Zvonik (2006, 2007)

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