|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
The collection includes drafts of his work, professional and personal correspondence, emails (both digital and in hard copy), notebooks, dream journals, heavily annotated books, lecture notes, teaching materials, photographs and ephemera. Several RBML collections already contain correspondence with Berman. For scholars, this collection will provide important new insights into the thought and work of a leading late-20th-century New York City intellectual. An important segment of the Marshall Berman papers consists of digital materials connected with his more recent work as a writer, scholar, and teacher. The files are currently stored on his home computer.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
Material is underprocessed. Was assessed as an unprocessed collection in October 2018 and can be made available. There are newspapers throughout the collection. Researchers should be warned do not unfold newspapers. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Marshall Berman Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.
Review and assessment of the collection was performed in October 2018 by Katia Shraga as part of Hidden Collections. Innitially collection was housed in 42 record cartons. Some of them were half-full. Collection was compressed to 38 record cartons.
Student-generated folder list was encoded in 2019.
2018-09-07 File created.
2019-01-03 Student inventory encoded. kws
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Marshall Berman (1940-2013) was a New York City-based academic whose writings cover a wide range of subjects that includes political theory, literary criticism, and urban studies. Berman grew up in the South Bronx, attending the Bronx High School of Science before studying at Columbia University. As an undergraduate, he was strongly influenced by several prominent faculty members, such as Jacob Taubes (Religion) and Lionel Trilling (English). Upon graduating from Columbia in 1961, Berman pursued a Bachelor of Letters at St. Antony's College, Oxford, under the tutelage of the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin. His 1963 thesis, "Marx on Individuality and Freedom," touched on many of the central themes and questions of his later writings. While living in England, Berman met G.A. "Jerry" Cohen, another of Berlin's North American students. Cohen would later go on to become a leading proponent of "Analytical Marxism," and he and Berman would remain close friends until his death in 2009. From 1963 until 1968, Berman was a doctoral student in the Government department at Harvard University, where he studied under the émigré political theorist Judith Shklar. His dissertation,
From 1969 until his death in 2013, Berman taught political philosophy at the City College of New York, a public institution in Harlem with a largely working class student body. Beginning in the 1970s, Berman also regularly contributed articles and book reviews to a wide array of publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Dissent (where he later served as an editor), Partisan Review, The Village Voice, and The Nation. One of his most important essays, "Sympathy for the Devil: Faust, the '60s, and the Tragedy of Development," appeared in American Review in 1974. That piece of writing anticipated the first section of Berman's 1982 magnum opus,
Among the most famous passages in
Berman traveled widely in Latin America (especially Brazil), the United States, and Western Europe in the last three decades of his life, putting in appearances at dozens of conferences, often as the keynote speaker. Even as he continued to serve as an editor at the left-liberal political journal Dissent and teach in the political science department at City College, his work gained its largest audience among scholars of urban design, planning, and architecture. As a result, by the late 1980s many of his articles were published in journals such as Designer and Builder, Harvard Design Magazine, Places: A Quarterly Journal of Environmental Design, and Architectural Design. But the range of interests and projects that drew Berman's attention continued to grow: in the 1980s, he contributed rock music criticism to the Village Voice, and in the 1990s, he became an unlikely enthusiast of hip-hop. A 1994 lecture at Oxford University, entitled "Justice/Just Us: Rap and Social Justice in America," points to the many-faceted nature of his intellect. Meanwhile, Berman also continued to write about political theory, focusing especially on the same subjects that had been at the center of his earliest published writings: social theory, modern subjectivity, and Marxism. In 1999, Verso published a collection of his essays, entitled Adventures in Marxism, which – true to form – combined memoir with literary analysis and erudite philosophical commentary. In 2010, Berman wrote an introduction to the revised Penguin edition of The Communist Manifesto. At the time of his death, in 2013, Berman was at work on a book about democracy and urban life in ancient Greece.