William Alfred Sessions
William Alfred Sessions was born in Conway, S.C. His family traces its roots in Horry County from the late 1600s.
A graduate of Conway High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was founding editor of The Carolina Quarterly. He earned a master’s degree in English (Renaissance) and philosophy, and a Ph.D. in English and comparative literature, both from Columbia University. Sessions won a Fulbright scholarship to study philosophy and literature at Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany. During his years in New York, he worked as a professional dancer in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, the musical Brigadoon and in several workshop productions at the 92nd Street Y.
Sessions was an assistant professor of English at West Georgia College, Spring Hill College and St. John’s University in New York. He joined the faculty of Georgia State University in 1964 as associate professor and became a full professor in 1972. He was named Regents’ Professor of English in 1992 and currently is the Regents’ Professor of English Emeritus.
His books include Francis Bacon’s Legacy of Texts (1990); Henry Howard, the Poet Earl of Surrey (1986), the first book-length study of the work of the early Renaissance poet; Henry Howard, the Poet Earl of Surrey: a Life (1999), a comprehensive critical and cultural biography; and Francis Bacon Revisited (1996). Sessions has published dozens of essays, reviews and articles on major English Elizabethan and Renaissance poets.
In addition, Sessions has published works as on American fiction writers Julia Peterkin and Flannery O’Connor. Some of his correspondence with O’Connor, whom he knew personally, appears in her collected letters, The Habit of Being, edited by Sally Fitzgerald and published in 1988. Sessions is the author of the forthcoming authorized biography of O’Connor, Stalking Joy: The Life and Times of Flannery O’Connor.
His poetry has appeared in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and other noted literary journals.
Three of his plays, "To Boundary House", "A Shattering of Glass", and "The Star-Gazer" have been produced. "A Shattering of Glass", set in Conway during World War II, was a winner in the Southern Theatre Playwrights Competition in 1988.
Sessions has lectured at the University of Leicester, University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and Johannes-Gutenburg University in Mainz, Germany. He received the Nikos Kazantzakis Medal for a series of lectures he gave in Greece in 1980 and was named the Bacon Scholar of the Year by the Francis Bacon Foundation and Library in 1988. He was invited to lecture as part of a Renaissance seminar at Oxford University at New College and at Wolfson College, in 1994 and 1995.
Sessions is a member of the Modern Language Association, the Renaissance Society of America and the Milton Society of America.
He was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service from Coastal Carolina University during the May 1996 commencement ceremony.