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Fonds F0016 - A.T.J. Cairns fonds.

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A.T.J. Cairns fonds.


  • [ca.1946]-1988 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1.25 m of textual records

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Allan Thomas Johnstone Cairns was born in Edmonton in February 1931. Educated in city schools, he later attended the University of Alberta to study English. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952 and his Master of Arts degree in 1954. He then studied at Oxford with the assistance of an IODE Postgraduate Fellowship, and travelled extensively in Europe.

In 1959 he returned to Canada, accepting a position at Victoria College (now the University of Victoria) to teach English and creative writing. In July 1962 he joined the Department of English at the University of Calgary as a faculty member and was promoted to associate professor in 1975. He remained a faculty member of the Department until his death in January 1988. Professor Cairns sat on many committees of the English Department, chairing several of them and acting as advisor to others. He was a consultant to the Norton Anthology of English Literature (4th edition) and to Prentice Hall publishers regarding new texts for students of English grammar.

In addition to writing scholarly articles and reviews, he was a dedicated creative writer for most of his life. His first love was poetry, which he began to write at the age of 15. In his early 30s the impulse (as he described it) to write poetry had ceased in him and he decided that it was "[t]ime to turn to prose now". Apparently he did not return to writing poems until ca. 1984. He wrote a large number of short stories as well as several novels, including one of over 1100 pages in length which he dubbed "The Monster". Despite his need to write creatively which resulted in an impressive volume of work, Cairns enjoyed only very limited success in having his writing published.

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists almost entirely of Allan Cairns' scholarly and creative writing. A small number of items relating to his teaching responsibilities in the Department of English and to his career as a whole are included amongst the records reflecting his professional activities, and correspondence relating to the publication of his work are filed along with copies of his writings which appeared in print.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The records were sorted and arranged after Cairns' death by an appointee of his executors: it is unclear what changes were made to Cairns'original arrangement. The fonds has been arranged into six series, including Professional Activities, Scholarly Writing, Poetry, Short Stories, Novels, and Publications and associated material.

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Language and script notes

Primarily English; a few poems are in French

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