James Dickey's Deliverance
A mini-exhibit for English 101

Originally displayed November-December 1995


A NOTE ON THE EXHIBIT

This small-scale exhibit, complementing the English Department's first-year reading week on Deliverance, can cover only one aspect of James Dickey's long and multifaceted career. His first published poetry appeared in the 1940s. During the 1960s, he became a National Book Award winner, poet-in-residence at the Library of Congress, and one of the best-known living American poets. Since Deliverance, he has continued to write not only further volumes of poetry, but also highly-regarded criticism and two more novels, Alnilam (1987) and, most recently, To the White Sea (1993). The immediate success of the novel Deliverance, and of the movie that followed it, give it a special place in Dickey's career, but it is only a small part of his story.

DICKEY BEFORE DELIVERANCE
James Dickey in the classroom

Since 1968 Mr. Dickey has taught poetry and creative writing at the University of South Carolina as Poet-in-Residence and First Carolina Professor of English. The University has twice honored him with honorary doctorates, as have many other colleges and universities. Reproduced from the student magazine Portfolio, courtesy of South Caroliniana Library.

James Dickey

Helmets

Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1964.

Some of the themes and images of Dickey's Deliverance are explored in this poem-sequence, "On the Coosawatee," from Dickey's 1964 collection. The third part of the sequence, "The Inundation," describes capsizing in a sudden river-spate while canoeing with friends. The Coosawatee lies northwest of Atlanta, where Dickey worked in advertising in the late nineteen-fifties and early sixties.

James Dickey

Buckdancer's Choice

Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1965.

The volume for which Dickey won the National Book Award in March 1966. Inscribed by the author.

James Dickey playing the guitar, c. 1971

Revised draft for "The Rain Guitar"

The gentle guitarist of Deliverance echoes James Dickey's own skill with the guitar, and this poem, first published in 1972, and included in his 1979 collection The Strength of Fields. Picture from Southern Living, 1974, courtesy of South Caroliniana Library. Draft from Baughman, DLB Documentary Series, vol. 7.


James Dickey

"In the Pocket"

The athletic themes of Deliverance are echoed also in several of his poems about football. Dickey himself played football in high school and at college. The poem reproduced here is from a now-rare insert-pamphlet from Life magazine, October 10 1969, marking the 50th season of the NFL. Original in South Caroliniana.

"Dickey delivers"

The Gamecock, vol. LX, no. 97.

Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, June 17 1970.

The student newspaper hailed the publishing success of the USC faculty's recent acquisition. Reproduced from the original in South Caroliniana Library.

DELIVERANCE - THE NOVEL
The Literary Guild magazine selection (April 1970).

The cover feature was on James Dickey's Deliverance, soon to be available to Guild members at $3.50. Includes a review and extracts from the novel, and an interview with James Dickey (pp.6-7) describing the novel's inspiration and composition.

James Dickey

Deliverance

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

A promotional pamphlet issued by Dickey's publishers to booksellers, with nineteen (reduced) facsimile pages from Dickey's typescript of the novel, and order information. Two copies shown, one opened.

James Dickey

Deliverance

Uncorrected proof for the first (U.S.) Edition, in green wrappers, spiral-bound, with tentative publication date "Spring 1970." Signed by the author.

James Dickey

Deliverance

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

The first (U.S.) edition, in the Book Club issue, published 23 March 1970. The first image shows the back dust-jacket, with one of the most famous photographs of Dickey, taken by his son Christopher Dickey. The second image shows the original dust-jacket design of a mysterious eye peering through forest fronds. "Mr. Dickey," the dust-jacket noted, "has been a star college athlete, . . . a night fighter pilot, . . . and a successful advertising executive. . . . He became a full-time poet at the age of 38. . . . an avid woodsman, archer, and guitarist." Inscribed by the author.


James Dickey

Deliverance

Uncorrected advance proof for the first English edition.

James Dickey

Deliverance

London: Hamish Hamilton, 1970.

First British edition. Dickey's novel, the blurb already claimed, was "destined to be a classic." The dust-jacket's arrow focuses on violence. Inscribed by the author.

James Dickey

Deliverance

New York: Dell, 1971.

The first paperback edition, in April 1971, with a design echoing the original dust-jacket, and promising inside "The famous poet has become a sensational bestselling novelist. . . . Soon to be a major motion picture." Signed by the author.

James Dickey

Deliverance

London: Pan Books, 1971.

First printing of the English paperback edition, preceding the movie.

James Dickey

Deliverance James Dickey reads his bestselling novel of adventure

Ontario: Don Mills/Listen for pleasure, 1986.

Sound recording.

"DELIVERANCE" -THE MOVIE
James Dickey

Typed letter, signed, to Paul H. Neal, October 26 1970.

This striking letter shows Dickey's exuberant assessment of the then largely-unknown director John Boorman, selected to direct the movie version of Deliverance. Reproduced from the original in South Caroliniana Library.

James Dickey and John Boorman

"Deliverance"

Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Inc, 1971.

Mimeographed film script, with final draft of screenplay for the movie, dated May 3 1971. James Dickey's copy, with some revisions to the text in the author's hand.

James Dickey

Deliverance

Screenplay Library, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.

The published edition, from (retyped) typescript with inserted movie-stills, of James Dickey's original screenplay as he wrote it, "before it was altered for shooting." The cover reproduces the famous movie poster "This is the weekend they didn't play golf." He had never written a screenplay before, and much was changed from his very detailed plans here. Dickey himself provides an "Afterword," appreciative of the process by which the film was developed from his screenplay, but asserting that his film "is still only in the wide screen of my head."

Hunting bow

Wrist compass

Props from the movie version of James Dickey's "Deliverance." Property of James Dickey.

On the set of "Deliverance"

James Dickey, seen here with his son Christopher during location shooting for the movie, himself played the role of the local sheriff, Sheriff Bullard. Reproduced from Ronald Baughman's James Dickey essay in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Documentary Series, vol. 7 (Main Ref. PS 221 .D49 1982), which contains much additional information.

The Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River

While Deliverance the novel draws its imagery from the Coosawatee, northwest of Atlanta, the movie version was shot on the Chattooga river, on the Georgia-South Carolina border, to the northeast. This map of the river, and the descriptions of its various canoeing and rafting dangers, is taken from the U.S. Forest Service river map.

James Dickey

Deliverance

New York: Dell, 1973.

Sixth Dell paperback printing, April 1973, showing the revised cover-design, linked to the movie version.

James Dickey

Deliverance

London: Pan Books, 1972.

Second printing of the English paperback, with cover with movie still.

POSTSCRIPT-INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE

James Dickey

Selected translations of Deliverance

Because of his previous high reputation as a poet, and in part also because the novel seemed to confirm so many European ideas about the South and about American mythic self-imagining, Deliverance has been among the most translated modern American works. Shown here are translations into Spanish, French, German, Finnish, and (we think) Serbo-Croatian, a mere sampling of at least twenty-three versions in various languages.



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This page last updated 5 August 1996 by Jason A. Pierce.