Yale Collection of American Literature
The Yale Collection of American Literature documents the creative lives, the artistic communities, and the literary achievements of American writers. The collection is noted for its bibliographical and archival strength in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century poetry, fiction, and dramatic writings. The archives of writers of diverse backgrounds underscore the collection’s interest in the indigenous and immigrant cultures that shape American literature. Manuscript holdings for the nineteenth century include works by William Cullen Bryant, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Clemens, and Walt Whitman; manuscripts by nineteenth-century African American writers include The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts (Hannah Bond) and The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed. Among modernist-era authors, Sinclair Lewis, Langston Hughes, Edith Wharton, H. D., Ezra Pound, James Weldon Johnson, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams are represented by major collections; archives of later twentieth- and twenty-first century writers include Susan Howe, Jonathan Lethem, Paula Vogel, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Yusef Komunyakaa. Also present are the papers of the Société Anonyme and artists Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Tom Feelings, Susan Bee, and Trevor Winkfield; theatrical holdings include papers of Philip Barry, Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Donald Margulies, Sarah Ruhl, and records of the Theatre Guild. The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection contains papers and important manuscripts of preeminent writers of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond including, in addition to Johnson and Hughes, those of W.E.B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, Jean Toomer, and the records of Cave Canem. Gay, lesbian, and transgender writing is a growing area of strength, represented by the papers of playwright Larry Kramer, prose writer Edmund White, and poet Eileen Myles, among many others. The American literary collections include materials in the widest range of formats; in addition to books, manuscripts, and archival collections, researchers will find broadsides, posters, art prints, sheet music, ephemera, artist books, artworks, electronic files, email correspondence, image and sound recordings, realia and memorabilia, photographs—from daguerreotypes and lantern slides to photobooth images, Polaroids, and more.
Introduction and History
The Yale Collection of American Literature was formed in 1911 by the gift of Owen F. Aldis, Yale 1874, of his collection of first and other notable editions by American writers of belles lettres. The collection, kept thereafter as a separate entity with its own curator, has continued to develop along the lines of Aldis’s interests, including fiction, drama, poetry, some historical writing, but excluding, for example, work by religious writers or early American historical figures. Bibliographical completeness received greater attention than rarity or association, although rare books and association copies abound.
From the appearance of Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse in 1650 to contemporary writers, American literature itself has grown in scope and stature. The idea that a library might attempt to hold, for example, all the works of fiction published in America from 1774 to 1900, which is the premise of bibliographies by Lyle H. Wright, cannot be translated to suit the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first. Choices and opportunities govern collecting today. Bibliographical completeness, always desirable for authors whose papers are at Yale, has yielded to concentration on textual completeness or representative samples.
While the addition of books has gone on undiminished, and while literary manuscripts were often given to the Yale library in earlier periods, collection development under former curator Donald C. Gallup, 1934, and faculty adviser Norman Holmes Pearson, 1932, began to emphasize archival collections of twentieth-century writers. Today it is an author’s personal papers that are of far more interest to scholars and students than the fair copy of a poem or an appealing group of letters. The papers that bear witness to the creative process—an author’s notes, drafts, setting copies, corrected proofs, and the documentation, such as correspondence, which surrounds them—are chiefly to be desired, but no curator would refuse Gertrude Stein’s hand-sewn vests or the other special oddments that often accompany papers. It is through the extended concept of “archives” that the collection has acquired its extra-literary materials such as photographs, works of art, and memorabilia.
The following descriptions point to some of the important archival collections and highlight the connections between and among them. Far from an exhaustive account of the resources in American literature at the Beinecke Library, these descriptions represent only a few of the major groups of papers. New acquisitions and collection highlights are frequently posted on social media (Twitter: @YCAL_JWJ; Instagram: https://bit.ly/2LjOEGQ)
and collection web sites (blogs: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/about/blogs/yale-collection-american-literature/2013/01/19/american-literature-blogs).
Modernism at Home and Abroad
The Yale Collection of American Literature holds a constellation of Modernist relationships seen nowhere else. The papers of Ezra Pound, H.D., Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Matthew Josephson, Mina Loy, Carl Van Vechten, and Glenway Wescott intersect and complement each other in fascinating ways. Add to these archives those of Scofield Thayer and his magazine, The Dial, and of the magazine’s art critic, Henry McBride, music critic Paul Rosenfeld, 1912, managing editor Alyse Gregory, and resident artist Gaston Lachaise, and the literary history of the period achieves a critical mass. Such works as Pound’s Cantos, Williams’s Paterson, Stein’s Making of Americans, and H.D.’s Trilogy, from the authors’ own papers, join such giants from The Dial archive as William Butler Yeats’s “Among Schoolchildren,” Marianne Moore’s “An Octopus,” Hart Crane’s “The Bridge,” T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” and Wallace Stevens’s “Bantams in Pine-Woods.”
The vast correspondence present in the archives documents virtually every event of consequence during the modern period, from the experiences of Pound, Stein, and H.D. in Britain and Europe during two world wars to the explosive concerts in New York and Paris of George Antheil’s Ballet mécanique, scored for piano, percussion, and airplane engines. Trends in publishing and editorial battles; the dwindling exercise of patronage; the strains of writers who toiled as pediatricians, librarians, or insurance executives; the search for physical therapy in Santa Fe or mental therapy in Vienna; and the Jazz Age all surround the creation of Modernist literature and suggest the milieus to be explored in conjunction with it.
The correspondence files of Hound & Horn (1927–34), founded by Lincoln Kirstein and named for a line from Pound’s “The White Stag,” contain letters of other Modernists who also wrote for The Dial such as T.S. Eliot, Allen Tate, Yvor Winters, and Kenneth Burke. The files of more recent periodicals situate the Modernist authors among their younger colleagues. The American Review, Blues, Chimera, Fantasy, Furioso, Tiger’s Eye and the papers of its editor Ruth Stephan, Twice A Year and the papers of its editor Dorothy Norman, and View extend the history of Modernist publishing through the 1940s.
The James Weldon Johnson Collection
Founded in 1941 by Carl Van Vechten, this collection stands as a memorial to James Weldon Johnson and celebrates the accomplishments of African American writers and artists, with special strength documenting the lives and works of those associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Grace Nail Johnson contributed her husband’s papers, leading the way for gifts of papers from Walter White and Poppy Cannon White, Dorothy Peterson, Chester Himes, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes. The collection also contains the papers of Richard Wright and Jean Toomer, as well as small groups of manuscripts or correspondence of such writers as Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Wallace Thurman.
Representative manuscripts suggest the richness of the collection: Richard Wright’s Native Son; Jean Toomer’s Cane; Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; DuBois’s “The Renaissance of Ethics,” his Harvard thesis with annotations by William James; James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and God’s Trombones; and Hughes’s The Weary Blues. Examples of the abundant correspondence are letters between Owen Dodson and Adam Clayton Powell, Joel Spingarn and DuBois, Georgia Douglas Johnson and William Stanley Braithewaite. The correspondence of Johnson and Walter White documents the early history of the N.A.A.C.P. Also present are music manuscripts by W.C. Handy, J. Rosamond Johnson, and Thomas “Fats” Waller, among others.
Carl Van Vechten photographed hundreds of his friends including all the persons mentioned above as well as Alvin Ailey, Marian Anderson, Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt, Arthur Mitchell, Paul Robeson, Margaret Walker, and Ethel Waters, to give but a sampling. These photographs, combined with those collected by Hughes and Wright, form an important visual record of artists, writers, actors, musicians, and politicians active in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. Sculpture by Richmond Barthé, Augusta Savage, and Leslie Bolling, drawings by Mary Bell, a portrait head of Ethel Waters by Antonio Salemme, as well as commemorative medals and prints are among the many works of art in the collection. Added in the 1990s, the Randolph Linsly Simpson Collection of photographs of and by African Americans contains more than 2,500 images from across the nation. Its formats span the history of photography, from daguerreotypes and cabinet cards to photographic postcards and snapshots from 1850 to 1930.
James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, formed a successful team of lyricist and composer best known for the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Less well remembered are the many popular hits they sold as sheet music such as “Under the Bamboo Tree.” They collected sheet music by other African American composers, and their collecting pattern continues.
Robust acquisitions are ongoing. Recent additions include manuscripts and small archival collections associated with writers Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gloria Naylor, Eslanda Robeson, and August Wilson; the archives of educator, suffragette, and anti-lynching activist Ellen Barksdale-Brown; the literary archive of playwright and director Lloyd Richards—who served as the dean of the Yale School of Drama and is remembered as the director of the 1959 Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun—a collection of approximately one hundred letters by James Baldwin; and the foundation records of the African American poetry institution Cave Canem, and the related archives of the poets who founded the organization, Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa’s papers and those of novelist and essayist Wesley Brown are still more recent additions. The collection continues to grow beyond traditional print material with acquisitions in black tourism, beauty culture, and film ephemera. Intersections of aesthetics, politics, and social justice can be studied in publications and papers related to the Black Panther Party and key party members, including Ericka Huggins. The papers of African American librarian and bibliographer Dorothy Porter Wesley provide opportunities for studying the development of research collections on black history and culture. Related materials in the Beinecke Library’s Americana and Western Americana collections, as well as in the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children’s Literature, provide still wider contexts for the study of African American arts and letters.
Modernism in the Southwest
Mabel Dodge Luhan, who early in the century knew Gertrude Stein in Europe and hosted a salon for John Reed and Emma Goldman in New York, settled in New Mexico in 1918 and married Tony Luhan, a Native American from Taos Pueblo. Although Mabel is best known for summoning the D.H. Lawrences to Taos, her papers reveal her friendships with others whose archives have come to Yale. In the 1920s she received repeated visits from Neith Boyce Hapgood and her children. Rebecca Salsbury James, then the wife of photographer Paul Strand, joined the household for a time, as did Georgia O’Keeffe before she built her own house in nearby Abiquiu. Arthur Davison Ficke, a perpetrator of the anti-modernist “Spectra” poetry hoax, spent extended periods in New Mexico.
Papers of other New Mexicans of the next generations have also joined the collections. The archive of Paul Horgan, raised in Roswell, includes manuscripts of fiction set in the West as well as his history of the Rio Grande and a biography of Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe. The manuscripts of poetry and fiction by Leslie Marmon Silko, a Native American from Laguna Pueblo, poets Arthur Sze and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge both of whom live near Santa Fe, and poet and publisher of Duende Press Larry Goodell of Placitas, point toward the future. These collections are complemented and contextualized by the rich related holdings documenting the history, cultures, and communities of the American West in the Yale Collection of Western Americana.
In keeping with Yale’s commitment to theater as demonstrated by the work of the Yale School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theatre, as well as its location in New Haven, formerly the tryout capital for Broadway, archives important for their theater connections have found a home at Yale. The papers of Eugene O’Neill, 1926 Hon., recall his study in George Pierce Baker’s famous “47 Workshop” for playwrights at Harvard, the founding of the Provincetown Players in 1915, O’Neill’s Broadway successes mounted by the Theatre Guild, and the troubled family of Long Day’s Journey into Night. Manuscripts in the author’s minuscule hand are joined by typescripts made by Carlotta Monterey O’Neill, set designs, production photographs, and Carlotta’s journals documenting their life together until O’Neill’s death. Papers of Agnes Boulton O’Neill, Eugene’s second wife, cover the 1920s, while the papers of Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgood elaborate on the Provincetown Players.
Another student in Baker’s workshop, Philip Barry, 1918, succeeded on Broadway with such works as Hotel Universe and The Philadelphia Story, both produced by the Theatre Guild. Graduating from Yale two years after Barry, Thornton Wilder took Pulitzer Prizes in both fiction (The Bridge of San Luis Rey, 1927) and drama (Our Town, 1938). His archive documents not only his career in theater but also his literary friendships, such as that with Gertrude Stein, whose archive he helped to deliver to his alma mater.
The archive of the Theatre Guild and of its founder, Lawrence Langner, is one of the largest in the collection. From the 1920s through recent years, the Guild produced many of Broadway’s prominent hits, including O’Neill’s Ah! Wilderness, Shaw’s Pygmalion, Lynn Riggs’s Green Grow the Lilacs (which became Oklahoma!, also a Theatre Guild production), DuBose Heyward and Dorothy Heyward’s Porgy, followed by the Gershwins’ opera Porgy and Bess, and William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba. The archive contains scripts that include light plots, blocking notes, and property plots, readers’ reports, casting books, road company information, financial papers, cast and production photographs, playbills, reviews, and correspondence with Langner and Theresa Helburn. The anatomy of every Broadway season for nearly a half-century can be gleaned from these papers.
The papers of the Phoenix Theatre, which flourished in New York beginning in the 1950s, attest to the work of T. Edward Hambleton, 1934, 1937 Dra., John Housman, and Harold Prince in producing such classics as Jean Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine, T.S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion, Chekhov’s The Seagull, and O’Neill’s The Great God Brown. Among the papers are box office reports, production notes, publicity, stage managers’ reports, and tour contracts.
Founded in 1949, New Dramatists matched young playwrights with seasoned mentors and fostered the work of Paddy Chayefsky, Horton Foote, John Guare, Donald Margulies, and August Wilson, among many others. Its first forty years produced an intriguing archive that attests to the robust creativity of Broadway aspirants whose successors continue to develop their craft in a converted church in the theater district.
Recent acquisitions include collections documenting the work of Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, and Stephen Sondheim and the literary archives of Paula Vogel, John Guare, Donald Margulies, A.R. Gurney ’58 MFA, and Sarah Ruhl. The work of American set and costume designers represents an area of growing strength.
The Ivy League
Literary manuscripts of many Yale alumni and others adopted through honorary degrees have been acquired by the library, beginning with Joel Barlow, 1778, and James Fenimore Cooper, a member of the Class of 1806 who was dismissed in 1805. Extensive archival collections of twentieth-century writers have also been added, among them is a trio who graduated within a couple of years of each other. William Rose Benét 1907S worked on the Yale Daily News and applied that experience to a lifetime of literary journalism, first at The Century and later at The Saturday Review of Literature. The papers of his brother, Stephen Vincent Benét, 1919, and the rest of his family, including wife Elinor Wylie and sister Laura Benét, are part of the collection. Leonard Bacon, 1909, became a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and no doubt found his undergraduate years as well as his teaching experiences good sources for his volume of satiric verse, Ph. D.s, male and female created He them. Sinclair Lewis, 1907, chose small-town Minnesota for the material of his famous novels Main Street and Babbitt; his papers include his detailed map of “Gopher Prairie,” the name under which he satirized his hometown, Sauk Centre.
John Hersey, 1936, worked as secretary for Sinclair Lewis before becoming a correspondent for Time and undertaking his books related to World War II, Hiroshima and A Bell for Adano. J.P. Marquand, 1950 Hon., concentrated on the Massachusetts of his college years to create The Late George Apley, the tale of a Boston Brahmin who fought a changing society. Robert Penn Warren, 1952 Hon., distinguished in fiction, drama, and poetry, was first known for All the King’s Men and its fabled characterization of the governor of Louisiana as “Willie Stark.” All of these Yale graduates and honorees won at least one Pulitzer Prize, except Sinclair Lewis, who declined the Pulitzer while accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Robert Penn Warren also taught at Yale, as did his long-time friend Cleanth Brooks, 1947 Hon. Together they had edited The Southern Review while young faculty members at Louisiana State University. As pioneers of the New Criticism, they wrote Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction, works studied by successive generations of college students. Combined, their correspondence takes in the reigning southern writers of their era, including John Crowe Ransom, Katherine Anne Porter, Andrew Lytle, and Allen Tate.
Norman Holmes Pearson, who taught English at Yale, became the friend and confidant of H.D. and Bryher (whose papers are in the general collection), spending time with them in London while he served in the Office of Strategic Services. F.O. Matthiessen, 1924, spent most of his professional career at Harvard, where he produced one of the first book-length critical studies of T.S. Eliot, thereby compelling academic interest in Modernism barely a decade after “The Waste Land” appeared in The Dial. Hermann Hagedorn, known primarily as a poet and novelist, taught undergraduate English at Harvard and came down hard on themes and poems by Scofield Thayer, perhaps forcing his aesthetic pupil toward his lifework of editing The Dial rather than writing poetry.
The papers of late-twentieth-century writers at Yale, including those of John Hollander, J.D. McClatchy, Louise Glück, Donald Margulies, Sarah Ruhl, and Paula Vogel, are joined by those of their distinguished contemporaries from other Ivy League institutions, including poets C.K. Williams and Susan Stewart at Princeton, Charles Bernstein at University of Pennsylvania, and C.D. Wright, Forrest Gander, Paula Vogel, and Brian Evenson at Brown University.
Art and Artists
The dynamic conversations, collaborations, and creative tensions between twentieth-century writers and their artist-contemporaries are well documented in the collection. Mabel Dodge Luhan knew Georgia O’Keeffe, Rebecca Salsbury James, and Marsden Hartley, whose archives are all at Yale. H.D. was a friend of the illustrator George Plank, the artist who decorated her book published by the Brendin Publishing Company and whose papers document his career as designer of cover art for Vogue as well as his years among American writers in England. Henry McBride, the New York art critic and a columnist for The Dial, reviewed exhibitions mounted by Alfred Stieglitz; both their papers are in the collection. The Katherine Dreier papers record the history of her Société Anonyme and the artists she championed, particularly Marcel Duchamp and other European painters. Dreier was an early collector of Wassily Kandinsky, Arshile Gorky, Man Ray, El Lissitzky, Max Ernst, and Abraham Walkowitz. The Yale Art Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other museums acquired her collection of paintings.
Connections between literary and the visual arts can also be found in more contemporary collections, where the papers of painters Robert Dash, Trevor Winkfield, and Darragh Park document their close friendships with generations of New York School writers including James Schuyler and John Ashbery, as well as Ron Padgett, Douglas Crase, Barbara Guest, and Ann Lauterbach, all of whose literary archives are also in the collection. Painter Susan Bee’s papers closely correspond with those of her husband, poet Charles Bernstein. Poet Susan Howe’s early training as a painter is documented in her papers by more than fifty of her early collage-paintings.
A number of artworks—by painters including Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Florine Stettheimer, Pablo Picasso, and Childe Hassam—have come to the library through literary archives; many of the most important of these works have been transferred to the Yale University Art Gallery, though smaller pieces have remained in the Beinecke Library’s holdings.
The collection also includes original drawings and family papers of Peter Newell, illustrator of fiction by Frank Stockton and John Kendrick Bangs. The papers of artist and book illustrator Tom Feelings include the original works for his important and influential book The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo. A comprehensive collection of printed works by African American artist and illustrator Lois Maliou Jones is complemented by examples of her sketches and oil paintings.
Paul Horgan’s archive boasts watercolor drawings of the Southwest—elegant aide-mémoire for historical writings. Miguel Covarrubias’s caricatures of Eugene O’Neill and Carl Van Vechten, sculpture by Arnold Ronnebeck, Augusta Savage, and Isamu Noguchi, prints by Romare Bearden, and etchings and other works by Joseph Reed, 1954, suggest the range of genres. Norman Holmes Pearson’s collection of “art for the wrong reasons”—drawings and paintings by writers—contains sixty-eight works by Henry Miller, E.E. Cummings, John Dos Passos, D.H. Lawrence, William Rose Benét, Katherine Ann Porter, and others.
The collection holds an abundance of photographs. The largest group consists of portraits made by Carl Van Vechten, inveterate photographer of his friends, including Sherwood Anderson, W.H. Auden, Tallulah Bankhead, Leonard Bernstein, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Charles Demuth, Janet Flanner, Julie Harris, Christopher Isherwood, Mina Loy, Rouben Mamoulian, Marianne Moore, Clifford Odets, James Purdy, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein, Georg Szell, Jessica Tandy, Sigrid Undset, Gore Vidal, and Rebecca West. Photographer Robert Giard’s papers include his photographs of gay and lesbian writers; collections of photos of authors by Gerard Malanga and Jonathan Williams are also present. Photographer Eve Arnold’s archive, including detailed notebooks describing her work process, are another important recent addition to the collection.
In the Stieglitz-O’Keeffe papers are sixty-five prints by Stieglitz as well as the “wastebasket collection,” trial proofs that O’Keeffe rescued as Stieglitz discarded them. Photographs by Man Ray, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, James Van Der Zee, and Cartier-Bresson are among groups of professional work. Many of the archival collections contain photographs of families and friends, formal portraits, and travel snapshots.
Robert Osborn, 1928, gave the library his archive of magazine illustrations and outspoken political cartoons. His cartoon work stretched from the useful Dilbert, a character who showed Army draftees what not to do with ammunition in the 1940s, to satiric pictures in the 1950s such as “Industrial-Military Complex,” a row of political, armed services, and manufacturing brass whose heads take the shape of rocket nose cones. Saul Steinberg willed his papers to Yale. Among them are the rubber stamps with which he embellished his cartoons, sketchbooks, drawings, and a selection of colored pencils, his customary tools. The papers of Garry B. Trudeau ’70 B.A., ’73 MFA, ’76 L.H.D.H. document the long career of his groundbreaking strip Doonesbury, published first in the Yale Daily News.
Just as the last papers from a previous era seemed to have made their way into a library, a new group appears. At the turn of the century, the archives of Sheri Martinelli, Gertrude Buckman, and Dachine Rainer arrived to complement the Pound Era; the Anna Catherine Bahlmann Papers enriched the Library’s Edith Wharton holdings; the Maurine Dallas Watkins Papers (yet another of Baker’s students) illuminated early twentieth-century American theater; and the Elizabeth Jenks Clark Collection of Margaret Anderson created new opportunities to understand the roles of women writers and editors in the Modernist period.
And contemporary writers must join the collection; recent additions include the papers of poets Barbara Howes, Barbara Guest, and Maxine Kumin. The papers of novelists Samuel Delany and Marilynne Robinson, poets Kay Ryan and Charles Bernstein, and prose writers David Sedaris and Janet Malcolm suggest the range and excellence of the collection’s growth.
Native American authors mark additions at the end of a century: Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), James Welch (Blackfoot), and Gerald Vizenor (Ojibwa) have all joined the collection in both paper and digital formats. Gary Soto’s papers represent Mexican American writing as do sets of first editions of work by Kathleen Alcalá, Rudolfo Anaya, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Dagoberto Gilb, Rolando Hinojosa. The papers of Asian American poets Arthur Sze and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge are still more recent additions.
Mary Hunter Wolf, the first woman to direct a play on Broadway, gave Yale her large archive dominated by her work in the theater and in theater education and, for many years, as “Marge” on the radio comedy The Easy Aces. The papers of John Guare, Larry Kramer (Yale ‘57), and Lloyd Richards, director and former dean of the Yale School of Drama, joined the collection at the turn of the twenty-first century. Still more recently, the papers of Pulitzer Prize winners Paula Vogel, Donald Margulies, and Sarah Ruhl provide opportunities to study the leading edge of America drama.
Recent collection development in American prose writings has both added to strength and built in new directions, exploring both grand traditions and unfolding possibilities. Complementing the long-held papers of outstanding prose writers John Hersey and Edmund Wilson are the archives of more recently acquired writers of narrative nonfiction Philip Lopate, David Sedaris, and Janet Malcolm. Likewise, the papers of Jonathan Lethem and others allow for study of contemporary developments in American fiction.
Historically strong collections of American poetry have grown in recent decades, expanding to include the papers of great writers across a wide range of lyric aesthetics and forms. The archives of James Merrill, John Hollander, Marilyn Hacker, and J.D. McClatchy and those of Eileen Myles, Frank Stanford, Ron Padgett, Susan Howe, and Charles Bernstein suggest the diversity of the collection.
Gay, lesbian, and transgender writing is a growing area of strength – from the writers of lesbian circles around Natalie Barney and Margaret Anderson in Modernist-era Europe to New York City at the height of the AIDS crisis, to the present. The papers of several writers of the Violet Quill—including Edmund White, Felice Picano, and George Whitmore—document the writers’ lives and work in the period between the Stonewall Riots and the onset of the AIDS pandemic. The archive of playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer provides opportunities for exploring the intersections of arts and activism in the period. Gender, sexuality, and love are prominent themes in the writing of poets Kay Ryan and Eileen Myles, novelist David Leavitt, playwright Paula Vogel—all of whose archives have recently been added to the collection.
Books and Broadsides
The collection houses many thousands of books and broadsides, including some 13,000 volumes in the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection. Its development has followed the lines set down by its first collector while building a broader base than the original emphasis on belles-lettres suggests. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors occur in great depth, with copies of every edition for some of the most notable. Later gifts opened the gates to writing for young people (the Beecher Hogan, 1933, Collection of L. Frank Baum) or mystery writers (a collection of Ellery Queen from one of the two pseudonymous cousins) or Bibliography of American Literature authors whose works Jacob Blanck detected among Yale’s holdings. Fugitive literatures have found their way into the collection, including “Mimeograph books” of poetry from the 1950s and works from very small presses. Also present is an important collection of American and European little magazines, many of them home to first publications by authors whose work later became highly regarded. The papers of BOA Editions, founded by Al Poulin, and those of the Grenfell Press, founded by Leslie Miller, suggest a growing interest in the archives of small presses.
Gifts and Bequests
The Yale Collection of American Literature had its beginnings in a gift to the university, and in the following near-century, gifts have enabled its development. Major funds were established through the generosity of Sinclair Lewis, 1907; Mrs. George B. Alvord in honor of George B. Alvord, 1895; Francis Hyde Bangs, 1915, as a memorial to Danforth N. Barney, 1916; Bradford F. Swan, 1925; Thornton Wilder, 1920, and Isabel Wilder, 1928 Dra.; Donald Windham; Alfred Z. Baker; Adele Gutman Nathan; Carlotta Monterey O’Neill in memory of Eugene O’Neill; Carl Van Vechten; John Stephan in honor of Ruth Stephan; Dr. Jeffrey V. Ravetch ’73 in honor of Mark Strand ’59 BFA, among other donors. These funds have been used to acquire books and manuscripts for the collection.
In addition, important gifts have greatly enhanced our holdings. By bequest or by personal or family gift have come the papers of Philip Barry, William Rose Benét, Stephen Vincent Benét, James Fenimore Cooper, Sinclair Lewis, F.O. Matthiessen, Edith Wharton, 1923 Hon., Thornton Wilder, and The Phoenix Theatre (gift of T. Edward Hambleton), as well as archival collections of Rachel Carson (bequest of Carson and gift of Marie Rodell), Hilda Doolittle, Katherine Dreier, Marsden Hartley (gift of Norma Berger), Hound and Horn (gift of Lincoln Kirstein), Arthur Davison Ficke (gift of Gladys Brown Ficke), Mabel Dodge Luhan, Robert Nathan, Gertrude Stein, Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, and the Theatre Guild (gift of Lawrence Langner, Theresa Helburn, and Armina Marshall), A. R. Gurney ‘58, MFA; and the Edward Steichen Family Papers, among many others. Outstanding collections of books have also been generously donated by Yale alumni: the G. Thomas Tanselle ’55 B.A. Collection of American imprints; the David J. Supino ’56 B.A. Collection of Works by Henry James; the library of Williams Pickins, 1904 B.A.; and the Dr. Jeffrey V. Ravetch ’73 Collection of American Poetry.