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Stephen Harrigan Papers

Identifier: SWWC-012

Scope and Contents

The collection is composed of 21 boxes of manuscripts, galley proofs, notes, clippings, correspondence, artwork, financial and legal papers, screenplays, photographs, and artifacts, from 1971 to 2000 that document Stephen Harrigan's writing career. It has been arranged into six series: Works (1971-2000, undated), Correspondence (1976-1991, undated), Personal Materials (undated), Works by Other Authors, (1971-1972, 1992-1993, undated), Texas Institute of Letters (1982-1983, 1985-1986), and Clippings (1971-1983). The Works series comprises the largest part of the Harrigan collection. It thoroughly documents Harrigan's methodical writing process. Most of the books and articles can be traced from the earliest notes taken by Harrigan to a proof copy or published work. The other series relate generally to his writing career. The materials are arranged in chronological order. Largely absent from the collection are personal papers or correspondence. Books in the Stephen Harrigan Collection have been cataloged separately.


  • 1971-2000


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials from the Wittliff Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user assumes responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish, and abiding by U.S. copyright laws.

Biographical Notes

Stephen Harrigan was born on October 5, 1948, and grew up in Oklahoma City, Abilene and Corpus Christi. After receiving a degree in English from The University of Texas at Austin in 1971, Harrigan briefly attended graduate school and worked as a yardman and as an ad writer for the University Co-op. He contributed articles to a number of magazines, including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire and The Texas Observer. He became a regular writer for Texas Monthly shortly after its inception and co-founded and edited Lucille, a journal of poetry, which published 10 issues between 1974 and 1978. Harrigan received a Dobie-Paisano fellowship in 1977, which allowed him to complete his first novel. Aransas, published by Knopf in 1980, tells the story of Jeff Dowling, an alienated young man who comes to terms with himself and the world as he trains two dolphins for a circus in Port Aransas, Texas. The New York Times named the novel one of the notable books of 1980, and reviewers praised its realism and style. His second novel, Jacob's Well, also focused on man's relationship with nature, following the lives of three people who are drawn together to explore an artesian well in Central Texas. The book was named one of the best books of 1984 by The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News. Harrigan's recent books, until the publication in 2000 of Gates of the Alamo, have been nonfiction. As a freelance writer and later staff writer and editor for Texas Monthly, Harrigan displayed a talent for journalism, contributing interviews and other investigative pieces, but he also focused on the natural environment, writing about rivers, Big Bend, Padre Island and other Texas landmarks. Many of these essays were collected in Harrigan's third book, A Natural State: Essays on Texas (1988), which was recently republished by the University of Texas Press.  His 1992 book Water and Light: A Diver's Journey to a Coral Reef combined research on aquatic life with his own experiences scuba diving off a coral reef in the Caribbean. The New York Times Book Review called Water and Light "moving, intelligent ... literary," and praised Harrigan's "remarkable ability to discuss the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of underwater exploration." Harrigan has also published a book of poetry and written screenplays, one of which, The Last of His Tribe, was broadcast on HBO. Harrigan's works are characterized by an intense interest in humans and their relationship to the environment around them. He once wrote of his interest in natural subjects: "I don't know what nature is exactly--whether it is a category that includes human beings or shuts them out--but for me it has always contained that hint of eeriness, the sense that some vital information--common knowledge to all the universe--has been specifically withheld from me. Sometimes, as with the snake, this secrecy has seemed malevolent, but far more often it has been wonderfully tantalizing. For much of my life I have been obsessed with nature, but not in the way a naturalist would be obsessed with it--driven to classify, to define relationships, to comprehend the world's marvelous intricacy. I have simply wanted to feel more fully a part of that intricacy, to see something other than neutral scorn in the eyes of that half-imagined snake." (Introduction to A Natural State, UT Press, 1994) Harrigan lives in Austin with his wife Sue Ellen and three daughters.


17.5 Linear Feet

35 boxes (Plus oversize.)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • The descriptive data created for this finding aid is licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license and is free for use without restriction.


The collection is composed of 21 boxes of manuscripts, galley proofs, notes, clippings, correspondence, artwork, financial and legal papers, screenplays, photographs and artifacts, spanning from 1971 to 2000, that document Stephen Harrigan's writing career.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Stephen Harrigan and Bill Wittliff beginning in 1987. Contact the The Wittliff Collections for information about additional materials from this writer that have not yet been fully processed.

Guide to the Stephen Harrigan Papers
Jennifer B. Patterson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2000: Revised by Amanda Oates.
  • 2005: Inventory revised.
  • 2021: Revised for ArchivesSpace by Susannah Broyles.

Repository Details

Part of the The Wittliff Collections Repository

601 University Drive
San Marcos Texas 78666 USA