Wilson L. Heflin Papers, 1841-1982 (bulk 1935-1981): Finding Aid
Published in August 2008
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 391
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: Wilson L. Heflin Papers
- Dates: 1841-1982
- Bulk Dates: 1935-1981
- Size: 1.04 linear feet (2 manuscript boxes, 1 half-manuscript box)
- Creator: Heflin, Wilson L., 1913-1985
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: Wilson L. Heflin was a Herman Melville scholar and an English professor at the United States Naval Academy. The Wilson L. Heflin Papers span the period from 1935 to 1982, although copies of certain documents in the collection date as far back as 1841. The papers illustrate various aspects of Heflin's career as an educator and scholar, including his research on Herman Melville and other notable authors, his teaching as an English professor at the United States Naval Academy, and his early research on Stephen Crane for a proposed Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Stephen Crane's Treatment of War."
Biography of Wilson L. Heflin
Wilson L. Heflin was born on September 19, 1913 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After attending Young Harris Junior College from 1930 until 1932, Heflin enrolled in Birmingham Southern College in 1932, earning an A.B. in 1934. Immediately following his undergraduate work, he began graduate work in English at Vanderbilt University, receiving an M.A. in 1936. Following a stint as an instructor of English at University of Alabama's School of Commerce and Business from 1937 to 1941, Heflin returned to Vanderbilt on a fellowship to pursue a Ph.D.
After completing his coursework, Heflin returned to teaching English at the University of Alabama in 1942, teaching courses in freshman composition, American literature, and American social, economic and political literature. Having enlisted in the Naval Reserve, Heflin was sent to U.S. Naval Air Navigation School, Hollywood, Florida, in May 1943. Upon completion of his training, he was assigned to U.S. Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas in September 1943, where he served as a flight navigation instructor, and beginning in December 1945, as Assistant to the Superintendent of Aviation Training. While at Corpus Christi, Heflin worked on writing the final chapters of the Aviation Training Department's history, and authored Star Navigation: A Ground Training Manual (August 1944).
On May 22, 1946, Heflin was transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy for duty as an instructor in the Department of English, History and Government, where he served until June 4, 1947. Upon his release from active duty in August of the same year, Heflin petitioned for, and was granted an appointment as a civilian instructor in English at the Academy. Steadily, Heflin rose through the ranks in the English, History and Government Department, and later the English Department, achieving the rank of Assistant Professor in 1948, Associate Professor in 1951, and full Professor in 1959. While at the Academy, Heflin taught numerous classes, including Composition and Literature (later Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature), Classic American Writers, and Readings in Western Ideas. He was also instrumental in the introduction of Literature of the Sea, first offered as a class in the spring semester of 1971.
Throughout his academic career, Heflin published extensively on Herman Melville and the sea, establishing himself as an authority on the subject. He completed his doctoral dissertation "Herman Melville’s Whaling Years" in 1952 (he had initially considered "Stephen Crane’s Treatment of War" or "Navigation in American Literature" as dissertation topics). While at the U.S. Naval Academy Heflin published numerous articles and book chapters, including "The Source of Ahab's Lordship Over the Level Loadstone" (American Literature, November 1948), "Melville's Third Whaler" (Modern Language Notes, April 1949), "The Peacock and the Whale" (The Nautical Research Journal, January 1952), "Melville and Nantucket" (Moby-Dick Centennial Essays, 1953), "New Light on Melville's Cruise in the Charles and Henry" (Historic Nantucket, October 1974), and "Sources from the Whale-Fishery and 'The Town-Ho's Story" (Artful Thunder: Versions of the Romantic Tradition in American Literature..., 1975). In addition to publishing on Melville, Heflin was also a founding member of the Melville Society, for which he served as president in 1958.
In addition to his teaching and scholarly pursuits at the Academy, Heflin served as editor of the Annual Summary of Research, and was a member of the Promotion and Tenure Committee. He continued to serve in these capacities until he announced in September 1985 his intention to retire at the end of the year.
Wilson L. Heflin died on November 11, 1985 following a brief bout with cancer. He was married to the former Kathryn Rochester and had two daughters, Kathryn Heflin and Anne Heflin Kaldrovics. The Wilson L. Heflin Prize for Leadership in the Humanities is named in his honor.
Description of Contents
The Wilson L. Heflin Papers, comprising 1.04 linear feet of documentation, span the period from 1935 to 1982, although copies of certain documents in the collection date as far back as 1841. The papers illustrate various aspects of Heflin's career as an educator and scholar, including his research on Herman Melville and other notable authors, his teaching as an English professor at the United States Naval Academy, and his early research on Stephen Crane for a proposed Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Stephen Crane's Treatment of War."
The collection consists of handwritten and typescript notes, journal articles, annotated texts, clippings, syllabi, essays, and correspondence.
The Heflin Papers are arranged into three series by document topic. Files containing published literary criticism and analysis on various American and British literary figures, including Herman Melville (on whom Heflin was considered an authority), comprise the bulk of Series 1: Research and Subject Files. This series also houses a sampling of Heflin's writings, as well as general subject files loosely related to Heflin's work and interest in the literature of the sea. Material pertaining directly to Heflin's teachings at the Naval Academy, as well as instructional design more generally, comprises Series 2: Naval Academy and Teaching Files. The series is also home to various clippings about the Academy, including those focused on sailing at the Naval Academy and the Academy's ship model collection. Series 3: Dissertation Files, pertains solely to Heflin's original proposed Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Stephen Crane's Treatment of War."
The Heflin Papers are arranged into the following three series.
- Series 1: Research and Subject Files, 1841-1981
- Series 2: Naval Academy and Teaching Files, 1954-1982
- Series 3: Dissertation Files, 1936-1943
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted.
Copyright and Permission
The Wilson L. Heflin Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of the Naval Academy English Department in August 1988 and Kathryn Heflin in May 2008. Acc 88-23 and 08-10.
Related Archival Material
Additional material in this repository pertaining to Heflin's career in the Naval Reserve and at the Naval Academy can be found in the Records of the English Department and the Faculty Publications section of the Naval Academy Archives.
Research material and correspondence pertaining to Heflin's book Herman Melville's Whaling Years, published posthumously and based upon his dissertation of the same title, make up the Wilson Heflin Papers, 1830-1990, at the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
Wilson L. Heflin Papers, MS 391
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in August 2008 and November 2018. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in August 2008 and revised in November 2018.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- American literature -- History and criticism
- American literature -- Study and teaching
- Crane, Stephen, 1871-1900
- English literature -- History and criticism
- Heflin, Wilson L., 1913-1985
- Melville, Herman, 1819-1891
- United States Naval Academy -- Curricula
- United States Naval Academy. Department of English, History and Government
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Faculty papers
- Research notes
- Student projects
Series 1: Research and Subject Files, 1841-1981 Boxes 1-2Series Description
Documentation of Heflin's research interests, most notably his focus on the works of Herman Melville and the associated topic of whales and whaling. The series also contains published analysis and criticism of other notable authors, namely John Barth, Edward L. Beach, Joseph Conrad, William Faulkner, John Milton, and Kurt Vonnegut. Included in the series are journal articles, notes, photographs, and two books. The two books in the series, The Odyssey of Homer and Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea, were extensively annotated by Heflin.
In addition to literary criticism, other topics covered in the series include those loosely related to the literature of the sea, such as sea songs, sea terminology, seamanship, and U.S. Navy regulations.
Included in the series are several writings by Heflin, chiefly book reviews and college writing assignments.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by topic.
Series 2: Naval Academy and Teaching Files, 1954-1982 Boxes 2-3Series Description
Documentation of Heflin's teaching activities as a member of the faculty of the Naval Academy's Department of English, History, and Government, specifically courses in Composition and Literature and Literature of the Sea. Included in the series are syllabi, assignments, notes, transparencies, articles, pamphlets, and student writing samples. In addition to focusing on specific courses taught by Heflin, the documents in the series touch upon writings by other faculty members, Naval Academy Ship Model Curator Fred Avery, course audiovisual materials, and sample class exercises and instructional design.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type and topic.
Series 3: Dissertation Files, 1936-1943 Box 3Series Description
Documentation of Heflin's early research on Stephen Crane for a proposed Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Stephen Crane's Treatment of War." The bulk of the series consists of Heflin's research notes, including handwritten notes from various sources, as well as a partial annotated typescript of The Red Badge of Courage. The remainder of the series consists of correspondence with various repositories and authorities pertaining to Heflin's search for sources, a fragmentary dissertation prospectus describing Heflin's intended goal of proving that Crane's depictions within The Red Badge of Courage were based on actual accounts and reports, and several journal articles, including "A Possible Source of The Red Badge of Courage," 1939 by Lyndon Upton Pratt, "Stephen Crane as Social Critic," 1940 by Russel B. Nye, and "Stephen Crane and the Philistine," 1943 by David H. Dickason. Also included is Heflin's handwritten translation of Henry Ludeke's "Stephen Crane's Gedichte," pertaining to Crane's poetry.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.