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Carvel Collins; William Faulkner Expert

April 14, 1990|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Carvel Collins, considered the world's foremost authority on the complex and controversial author William Faulkner, has died in an Oceanside hospital after a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 77.

Collins, who had lived in Vista in San Diego County since his 1978 retirement, died Tuesday.

First intrigued by Faulkner in 1929 as a student at Miami University, Collins was the first professor in the world to offer a course solely devoted to Faulkner. He did that at Harvard in 1942--seven years before Faulkner won the Nobel Prize and with it worldwide critical acclaim.

Collins spent more than five decades researching Faulkner, but, to the disappointment of many scholars, never wrote a planned biography.

"I've never tired of knowing Faulkner," he told a Los Angeles Times interviewer in 1986. "My joy in this search is inexhaustible. Never been dull. The more you know, the more you realize how divine he really was."

He had personally promised Faulkner never to write his biography until after his death, which occurred in 1962, Collins said in that interview. His plans were further delayed, he said, when Faulkner's widow authorized another writer to do a two-volume biography published in 1974 and 1984.

Collins did write scores of articles on Faulkner and introductions to books of Faulkner collections he edited, including "New Orleans Sketches" and "The Unvanquished."

He had arranged for his prodigious research files, which filled his workroom behind the garage of the Vista house, to go to the University of Texas Humanities Research Center.

Born June 14, 1912, in West Union, Ohio, Collins earned his bachelor's degree at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and his master's and doctorate at the University of Chicago.

He taught English at Colorado State College, Stephens College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Notre Dame.

Collins' first marriage, to Mary Brewster, ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Ann Greene Collins; his daughter from his first marriage, Lucy Emerson Collins of New York City, and a brother, Charles, of Phoenix.

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