HISTORY NEBRASKA MANUSCRIPT FINDING AID
RG5103.AM: John Thomas Richards, 1937-2015
Columbia, Missouri: Professor; author
Size: 2.5 cu.ft.; 5 boxes
John Thomas Richards was born April 16, 1937, in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He attended public schools in Rolla, Missouri. Richards received a BS in Education (1960), and Masters Degree in English (1962) from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He married Elaine Joan Scott of Royal Oak, Michigan, with whom he had a son, Ivan. In 1963 or 1964 Richards embarked on a Ph.D. in English at the University of Missouri, Columbia, a degree he would not complete until 1976. Richards supported himself and his family during this time by teaching English, including six years as Assistant Professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University (1967-1973).
In the fall of 1958 Richards saw John G. Neihardt, the Poet in Residence at the University of Missouri, on a televised lecture. He resolved to meet the poet and attended every lecture or function graced by Neihardt. A year later he had established a relationship with Neihardt that would last until the poet’s death in 1973. Richards regarded Neihardt as a teacher and mentor. He adopted Neihardt’s interest in spiritualism and mysticism, and became a welcome visitor at Skyrim Farm. He joined Neihardt’s group of parapsychological experimenters in 1961.
Richards’ dissertation, The Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, was rejected by the English Department at the University of Missouri four times. The consensus was that along with problems of focus and writing style, the dissertation was too uncritical of Neihardt and his work. Richards himself referred to the dissertation, in a 1971 letter to Neihardt, as “a tribute to your truth.” He was anxious to receive his doctorate, because his position at Southeast Missouri State depended on completing the degree. In 1973, with the help of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, he published the dissertation as Luminous Sanity: Literary Criticism Written by John G. Neihardt. By that time Richards had been forced to seek another teaching position because he had been dropped from the doctoral program at Missouri in the Spring of 1973. He firmly believed that the Missouri English Department was “anti-Neihardt (and, consequently, anti-Neihardt-supporter)” and blamed them for the loss of his job [letter, Oct. 11, 1973]. Working on the assumption that the English Department would have to reconsider its position because the rejected dissertation had been published, Richards sought reinstatement in the doctoral program at the University of Missouri, Columbia. By September of 1974, reinstated, he was working with new advisor A. J. Devlin, and once again revising his dissertation under the title, John G. Neihardt as Critic and Reviewer. In 1976 he successfully submitted and defended the dissertation, and received his doctoral degree.
John Thomas Richards passed away on September 16, 2015.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection consists of materials relating to John T. Richards’ dissertation on the literary criticism written by John G. Neihardt, primarily his reviews in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Minneapolis Journal. The materials are arranged into four subgroups: 1) Correspondence, 1962-1980, & n.d.; 2) Dissertation Manuscripts and Notes; 3) Research Materials; and 4) Miscellaneous.
Subgroup 1, Correspondence, is arranged chronologically. It contains a large number of letters between Richards and Dr. Neihardt, who refers to Richards as “Tom.” The letters relate to the lives and work of both men over an eleven-year period. Richards often asked Neihardt questions about his writing or philosophy. Spiritualism and mysticism are frequent topics. The correspondence also includes a great many letters about the progress, or lack of progress, of the dissertation: letters to and from various members of the University of Missouri and its English Department; letters to publishers; to the Neihardt Foundation; etc.
Subgroup 2, Dissertation Manuscripts and Notes, consists of various drafts of Richards’ dissertation, arranged roughly chronologically beginning with the version from 1970. The most complete manuscript of each version is filed first, followed by portions (such as chapters) or fragments. No complete version of the accepted dissertation, “John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer,” is available in the collection; materials relating to this version are arranged by Chapter. This subgroup also contains the complete typescript of Luminous Sanity, along with publicity materials.
Subgroup 3 contains Research Materials gathered and used by Richards for his dissertation. Series 1 consists of notes and transcripts of interviews Richards conducted with Neihardt at Skyrim Farm from 1965-1969. Series 2, Writings by John G. Neihardt, contains copies of a small portion of Neihardt correspondence [Subseries 1], reviews written by Neihardt [Subseries 2], and miscellaneous Neihardt writings [Subseries 3]. Series 3 includes information about Dr. Neihardt. Series 4 consists of background information about poetry and criticism in general. Series 5 contains scholarly articles about mysticism.
Subgroup 4 is comprised of miscellaneous materials, and includes Richards’ article about the death of Neihardt; and experiments with box writing and telekinesis.
Note: See the Library Catalog for copies of Richards’ Luminous Sanity [809.8 N31].
Subgroup 1 – Correspondence, 1962-1980, & n.d.
- 1962, 1964
- 1978, 1980
Subgroup 2 – Dissertation Manuscripts and Notes
- Dissertation, 1970: The Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, Prospects, early outline, thesis statement, pp. 1-156
- Dissertation, 1970: The Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, Carbon typescript, pp. 1-156
- Dissertation, 1970: The Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, pp. 1-156, with advisors’ comments
- Dissertation, 1970: The Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, Fragments
- Dissertation, c.1971-1972: Chapter 4, “Carbon, Last 20 pages,” pp. 161-180
- Dissertation, c.1971-1972: Chapter 4, Revisions
- Dissertation, c.1971-1972: Chapter 4, Revisions
- Dissertation, c.1971-1972: Chapter 6, “Rough Draft” of Ch. 6, “Neihardt’s Criticism of Contemporary Authors”
- “4th Version of The Criticism Written By John G. Neihardt,” pp. 1-141, Ch. 1-3; 1971-1972
- “4th Version of The Criticism Written By John G. Neihardt,” pp. 142-328; 1971-1972
- Luminous Sanity, complete typescript, title page, p. 141; 1973
- Luminous Sanity, complete typescript, pp. 142-313; includes “About the Author,” 1973
- Luminous Sanity, Table of Contents: additions and corrections, 1976
- Publicity for Luminous Sanity
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Abstract and Prospects
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 1 and Abstract: Revisions, with advisors, comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 1: Carbon, revisions
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: Plan
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: early version with revisions and advisors’ comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: pp. 45-54, with advisor’s comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: Outline, and last section, pp. 55-65, with advisor’s comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: Revisions, pp. 44-60
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 2: Carbon
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Ch. 1 & Ch. 2: Rough Footnotes
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 3: Conclusion, with revisions and advisors comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 3: Carbon copy
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 4: pp. 102-136, carbon
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 4: Typist’s finished introduction and revised rough copy of remainder
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 4: pp. 101-110, “Major Revisions made”
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Chapter 4: pp. 116-136, with revisions and advisor’s comments
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, “Final Chapter”
- John G. Neihardt As Critic and Reviewer, Bibliography
- “A Selected Bibliography with Key Items Annotated”
- Unidentified Footnotes
- Dissertations, Unidentified Fragments
- Dissertation Revisions with advisors comments, various versions/Fragments
- Dissertation Notebook
- Miscellaneous Notes
Subgroup 3 – Research materials
Series 1: Interviews with John G. Neihardt
- Interviews with JGN: 1965, transcripts
- Interviews with JGN: 1966-1967, transcripts
- Interviews with JGN: Richard’s notes, 1966-1967; 1969, and n.d.
Series 2: Writings by John G. Neihardt
Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1912-1914
- Neihardt’s Correspondence, 1912-1914, photocopies
Subseries 2: Reviews
- List of Book Reviews by John G. Neihardt
- Reviews by John Neihardt
Subseries 3: Miscellaneous writings
- Writings By John G. Neihardt, Miscellaneous
Series 3: Materials about John G. Neihardt
- Neihardt Biographical Information
- Thomas Wright, Bibliography of Neihardt’s Book collection, 1962
- Thomas Wright Articles, with emendations by JGN
- Research materials About JGN–Reviews and scholarly articles
Series 4: Poetry & Criticism
- Research materials – Poetry & criticism
Series 5: Mysticism
- Research materials – Mysticism
Subgroup 4 – Miscellaneous
- “John G. Neihardt: 1881-1973 – Eternity,” by John T. Richards
- Clippings, Neihardt death notices, 1973
- Clippings, General
- “The Skyrim Telekinesis Experiments” by John T. Richards
- Box writing experiments
- Spiritualism – Miscellaneous
American literature — History and criticism
Authors — Nebraska
Neihardt, John Gneisenau, 1881-1973 — Criticism and interpretation
Richards, John Thomas, 1937-2015
Encoded TMM 06-10-2011
Revised TMM 05-02-2022