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   Quentin Anderson Papers, 1935-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1960-2000].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Quentin Anderson Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


The papers document the life and work of author, Columbia University professor, and literary critic, Quentin Anderson. This collection contains his personal and professional correspondence, his writings and research notes, documentation of his professional involvements, and some personal materials.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1434
Bib ID:5410361 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Anderson, Quentin, 1912-2003.
Title:Quentin Anderson Papers, 1935-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1960-2000].
Physical description:19 linear feet (33 document boxes, 7 index card boxes)
Language(s): In English
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. Some folders in Subseries III.1: Columbia University, 1935-2001 are restricted. Please see container list for details.  More information »



Arranged in four series:

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Scope and Content

The Quentin Anderson Papers provide a record of Anderson's academic and professional life from 1935 until his death in 2003. The first two series of Anderson's correspondence and writings make up the bulk of the collection, and provide insight into Anderson's various roles as a serious intellectual, celebrated colleague, and admired mentor. Formats include correspondence, typewritten and printed items, and written research notes on both letter-size paper and index card files. The third series documents Anderson's professional career at Columbia University and within the literary community through correspondence, printed materials, and his own notes in preparation for class lectures. The final series holds items of personal significance such as journals, a record of his Broadway performance in his later years, and materials gathered by his wife Thelma Anderson, which are related to his death and memorial service.

Series I: Correspondence, 1937-2003

Series I is comprised of correspondence between Anderson and his professional and personal contacts, including mentors, colleagues, students, family, and friends. Many files also contain examples of the professional work of the individual, such as essays or reviews. The correspondence chronicles how Anderson's numerous professional relationships became long lasting friendships over time. They also illustrate the many friendships Anderson established with his students that continued long after they graduated from Columbia, some of whom eventually became his colleagues. This series is arranged alphabetically by the individual's last name.

SeriesII: Writings, 1937-2001

The second series of the collection holds Anderson's writings and notes. It has been divided into four subseries according to the original order of the materials. Many of the writings exist as drafts, as well as in final form. Notes and research undertaken in preparation for some of the writings contained in the first three subseries can be found in the fourth subseries.

Subseries II.1: Manuscripts and Essays, 1945-2001

Subseries 1 is devoted to manuscripts of Anderson's books and longer essays published in a variety of journals. Materials documenting the writing and publication process of all three of his major works, The American Henry James, The Imperial Self, and Making Americans: An Essay on Individualism and Money , are found here. Also present are texts of Anderson's key essays, both in draft and final form, including materials concerning the writing and publication of "Why R.P. Blackmur Found James's Golden Bowl Inhumane," his last published work. The subject matter of these works focus mainly on American literature and its relationship to American and European culture and history, with particular attention to the life and work of 19th century American authors, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman.

Subseries II.2: Introductions and Reviews, 1949-1996

Because of his expertise in American and British literature, Anderson was invited to write introductions for several new publications of classic literary works by American and British authors. He also periodically contributed book reviews to prominent literary publications, such as The New York Times Book Review , the Times Literary Supplement , and The New Republic . His book reviews point to Anderson's literary subject specialties--Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman in particular. The text of his introductions, book reviews, and some related research are contained in this subseries.

Subseries II.3: Other Writings, 1937-1990

Subseries 3 holds materials related to Anderson's contributions on American literary figures to encyclopedias, as well as documentation of his role as general editor and contributing author of the encyclopedia History of American Literature Series . However, the bulk of this subseries is devoted to Anderson's writings and preparations for lectures and addresses given at various academic conferences and events. Of special interest is the valedictory address that Anderson gave at the 1937 commencement ceremony, and the materials related to the lecture Anderson delivered in 1981 for the University Lecture Series at Columbia, a semi-annual event that honors the academic achievements of an exemplary faculty member.

Subseries II.4: Notes, 1957-1997

This subseries is comprised of research notes compiled by Anderson, presumably in preparation for many of the manuscripts, essays, reviews, and lectures contained in the three preceding subseries. A portion of the subseries is made up of index card files which Anderson used to organize his research and thoughts in preparation for his writings and teachings. Some of these notes are on individual authors and the writings of colleagues, while others serve a more general purpose such as preparatory notes for his course lectures. A significant amount of these card files are devoted to research on Henry James, including notes for Anderson's dissertation on James. The original order of these index card files has been preserved; it should be noted that Anderson's method of organizing his index cards with small, fragile tabs and dividers necessitate careful handling of the materials.

Series III: Professional Career, 1935-2002

Series III, a record of Anderson's professional career, is divided into three subseries, remaining true to the original order of the materials. This series offers details of Anderson's career at Columbia University while a professor and illustrates his continuing involvement with the University post-retirement. It also documents his time spent as a visiting professor abroad, as well as his professional activities in academia.

Subseries III.1: Columbia University, 1935-2001

Subseries 1 chronicles some particulars of Anderson's long history at Columbia University. It provides information on many of the courses Anderson taught during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as some of those that he participated in as a student. Examples of his achievements and honors while teaching can be found here, including the certificate declaring him the Julian Clarence Levi Professor Emeritus in 1981. This subseries illustrates Anderson's many involvements in university interests, such as his participation in the Columbia College Co-education Committee which recommended the admittance of women. A few items related to the 1968 campus controversy are present in this subseries.

Subseries III.2: Professional Involvement, 1965-2002

Subseries 2 contains documents related to Anderson's involvement in professional activities, both within and outside of Columbia University. This includes information on conferences Anderson attended, grants he applied for, and his activity as a member of various national literary and humanities organizations. Items which record his distinction as a fellow of New York Institute for the Humanities are held in this series. Also of special interest are materials which document Anderson's role in establishing the Lionel Trilling Seminars at Columbia and his continued participation in the event.

Subseries III.3: Teaching and Lecturing Abroad, 1962-1987

During the 1960s, Anderson was awarded two Fulbright grants to act as a visiting professor in both Sussex, England and Toulouse, France. This subseries chronicles his experiences living and working in those cities, and includes correspondence between Anderson and his colleagues, teaching materials, course descriptions, lecture notes, and information about each university. It also provides information documenting his invitations to lecture on topics related to American literature and culture in other European cities and countries, while living in abroad. Items related to Anderson's time as a resident scholar in Bellagio, Italy, and his participation in a guest lecture program in Barcelona, Spain can also be found here.

Series IV: Personal Materials, 1937-2003

This small series offers some documentation of Anderson's personal academic history, such as transcripts and examination booklets from Columbia University and Harvard University. Materials related to the publication of Emerson and His Legacy , the festschrift celebrating Anderson's professional career, can be found here, as well as a few examples of Anderson's own musings on his personal history and academic interests. Of particular note are the folders which document Anderson's involvement in projects related to the centennial celebration of Kurt Weill, the composer. Weill was a personal friend of the Anderson family as a result of his professional relationship with Anderson's father, Maxwell Anderson, the playwright. Mrs. Thelma Anderson gathered materials related to Quentin Anderson's death in 2003 to include in this collection; those items which include condolence letters to the Anderson family and items from the memorial service held at St. Paul's Chapel on the Columbia University campus are also contained in this series.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Some folders in Subseries III.1: Columbia University, 1935-2001 are restricted. Please see container list for details.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Quentin Anderson Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid in repository; folder level control.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2008 Jillian Cuellar.

Finding Aid written by Jillian Cuellar March 2008.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion January 20, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-01-20 File created.
    2009/02/04 xml document instange created by Patrick Lawlor
    2009/05/05 xml document instance edited by Carrie Hintz

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Card files.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Drafts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
American literature--History and criticism.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Anderson, Maxwell, 1888-1959.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Anderson, Quentin, 1912-2003.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Criticism--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Education--Study and teaching--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882--Criticism and interpretation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
James, Henry, 1843-1916--Criticism and interpretation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lionel Trilling Seminars.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Literature and society.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Trilling, Lionel, 1905-1975.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892--Criticism and interpretation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note


Quentin Anderson, literary critic, cultural historian, and professor emeritus, began his long relationship with Columbia University as a student in 1934, after a brief enrollment at Dartmouth. Anderson received his B.A. from Columbia in 1937, then matriculated to Harvard, obtaining his M.A. in 1939. He returned to Columbia to begin teaching in the Department of English and Comparative Literature in 1939, earning his Ph.D. in 1953, attaining full professorship in 1961. In recognition of his exceptional service to the University, Anderson was appointed the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities Emeritus in 1978. Upon his retirement in 1981, Anderson continued to be actively involved in his field, both as an author and as a participant in several scholarly organizations.

Anderson was born in 1912 in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, the eldest son of author and playwright Maxwell Anderson. The Andersons bought a house in Rockland County, New York, and the family traveled back and forth between there and a home in Manhattan. As a young man, Anderson gained experience in the theater, working on a few of his father's plays as an assistant stage manager and acting in minor roles. After a marriage to Margaret Pickett ended in divorce, Anderson married Thelma Ehrlich in 1947. He had one daughter, Martha, and two sons, Maxwell and Abraham

While an undergraduate at Columbia, Anderson studied with Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun as a student in their colloquium on great books. These initial mentors would later become colleagues and lasting friends. While at Harvard, Anderson studied under F.O. Matthiessen and Perry Miller, both renowned scholars in American literary and historical criticism. This experience, coupled with his earlier exposure at Columbia to Romantic and Victorian literature, helped define Anderson's primary research interests. Trilling, a sponsor of Anderson's dissertation, was an especially influential force; Anderson touched on many of the same themes and subjects as Trilling in his scholarly work. Anderson came to be considered a leading authority on 19th century American literature and culture; his research had a particular emphasis on the American authors Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman. Much of his work focused on literary figures and the formation of cultural identity in 19th century America. Anderson examined the work of American authors in light of their European antecedents, while also considering the cultural influences that help define an individual's identity. His first book, The American Henry James (1957), explored the family and work of the novelist. His second, The Imperial Self (1971), studied James, Emerson, Whitman, and their contemporaries, and the impact of their works on American literature and culture. Anderson's last book, Making Americans: An Essay on Individualism and Money (1992), examined a wider range of American authors, considering the extent to which cultural history influenced the American literary experience. In addition to his three books, Anderson contributed scholarly essays and book reviews to numerous journals and publications, including The New York Times Book Review and the Times Literary Supplement.

Anderson's roles as author and critic did not prevent him from taking an interest in his students and the University; he was actively involved in campus affairs throughout his career at Columbia. He served as the English Department's representative in Columbia College from 1961 to 1969, and as chairman of the Joint Committee of Disciplinary Affairs in 1968, formed in response to the campus uprising that spring. Anderson's profound intellect coupled with his towering physique was said to intimidate some of his students. He was at once imposing and welcoming, characteristics that led one student to remark in a student course guide that Anderson was "one of the most pompous, friendly men" on campus. Yet, it is clear that he was genuinely committed to their academic and professional success. Several of his former pupils went on to become accomplished academics, and Anderson maintained friendly and professional ties with many of them as they transformed from student to colleague.

Anderson remained a revered member of the academic community throughout his lifetime. He was regularly invited to deliver lectures and participate in discussions at academic institutions and conferences both in the United States and abroad. During the 1960s, he was the recipient of two Fulbright grants which allowed him to accept invitations to act as a visiting professor at two universities overseas, and consequently participate as a guest lecture at institutions across Europe. Anderson was granted a senior fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973-1974, and was awarded a fellowship at the National Humanities Center in 1979-1980. He became a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities in 1980, continuing his involvement with NYIH until 2000. One of the lasting legacies of Anderson's time at Columbia is the Lionel Trilling Seminars. Anderson, a close friend of both Lionel Trilling and his wife Diana, was a member of the founding committee that established the lecture series in 1976, the year after Trilling's death. The Lionel Trilling Seminars, a bi-annual event that serves as a forum for intellectual discussion, continues to attract the participation of renowned scholars. Anderson remained actively involved on the seminar committee, even after his retirement. It was one of the many contributions that characterized his career. A festschrift, Emerson and His Legacy, that celebrated those contributions and academic achievements was published in Anderson's honor in 1986.

In the last years of his life, Anderson revisited two subjects that were of personal and professional significance during his youth and at the beginning of his career. In 2000, he performed in a theater production celebrating the centennial of the composer Kurt Weill, a family friend and collaborator of his father Maxwell Anderson. It was a chance for Anderson to relive his experiences of performing onstage while reminiscing about his childhood as he recounted memories of Weill's visits to his childhood home. At the same time, Anderson was working on what would be his last published work, a scholarly essay entitled, "Why R.P. Blackmur Found James's Golden Bowl Inhumane." Here, Anderson returned to the subject of his dissertation and his first major work: Henry James. The essay, published in 2001, added further proof of Anderson's expertise on the American author and provided an appropriate final note to the end of a long and distinguished career. Anderson died two years later in 2003.

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