Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Richard Poirier Collection, 1945-2007, bulk 1986-2007

Summary Information


Correspondence and writings of American professor, editor, and scholar of literature and popular culture, Richard Poirier.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1572
Bib ID 8720686 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Poirier, Richard
Title Richard Poirier Collection, 1945-2007, bulk 1986-2007
Physical Description 3.25 linear feet (3 record storage cartons)
Language(s) English .

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.

Box 3, Folder 13 contains student papers and is restricted until 2056.



This collection is arranged in 3 series.



Papers contain material related to the personal and professional life of literary and cultural critic Richard Poirier. The bulk of the papers contain files related to Poirier's scholarly writing, but there is also correspondence related to his role as a professor, literary critic, and editor of the Raritan: A Quarterly Review. The papers comprise only a small part of the Poirier collection; the majority of the collection contains books from Poirier's library, most annotated (some heavily) and many inscribed by their authors. The books reflect both Poirier's interest in the American literary tradition and his network of friends and admirers within the literary community.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1971-2007

    Series I is comprised of personal and professional correspondence received by Poirier, as well as some copies of his outgoing correspondence. The letters relate to his work as a literature professor at Rutgers, his role as editor of Raritan and personal correspondence between Poirier and his friends.

  • Series II: Writings and Notes, Undated, 1986-1996

    The Writings and Notes Series includes research notes and manuscript drafts of many of Poirier's scholarly articles, books, and book reviews as well as some copies of published articles. These files are arranged topically by the subject of a work according to Poirier's own organizational and naming schemes. Therefore, researchers seeking material related to the book The Renewal of Literature, should look under "Emerson, Ralph Waldo" rather than the title of the book.

    This series also includes some lecture notes and teaching material, including student essays from a 1986 course Poirier taught at Rutgers. These student papers are restricted until 2056.

  • Series III: Biographical Material, 1945-1992

    The Biographical Material series is comprised of a small amount of biographical material including, notably, some of Poirier's diaries from the 1970s and early 1980s.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

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.

Box 3, Folder 13 contains student papers and is restricted until 2056.

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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Richard Poirier Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


No additional material expected

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Carrie Hintz 06/--/2011.

Finding aid written Carrie Hintz 06/--/2011.

Revision Description

2011-06-17 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

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.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Articles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- History and criticism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Criticism -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Frost, Robert, 1874-1963 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hellman, Lillian, 1905-1984 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poirier, Richard Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scholarly periodicals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Richard Poirier, an American literary and cultural critic, professor of literature, and founder of Raritan: A Quarterly Review, was born September 9, 1925 in Gloucester Massachusetts. Poirier served in the Army during World War II, and upon returning from combat enrolled in Amherst College where he earned his B.A. He continued his studies in literature first at Yale where he earned his MA, and later at Harvard where he received a PhD in 1960.

Poirier taught at Harvard from 1958-1963, but he spent the majority academic career at Rutgers University where he was a prominent member and sometimes Chair of the English Department from 1963-2002.

Richard Poirier was not only a highly regarded scholar and teacher, but a well-respected editor and publisher as well. He co-founded the Library of America publishing venture in 1979. The Library of America is a non-profit publisher focused on publishing and preserving American poetry, fiction, and essays, often producing volumes of collected works that published pieces that would otherwise be out of print. He also co-founded Raritan: A Quarterly Review, out of what he perceived to be a dearth of serious criticism on American literature and culture that engaged both academics and non-academics.

Poirier regularly contributed essays and reviews to publications such as The Partisan Review (which he edited from 1963-1973), The New York Review of Books, and The London Review of Books. He authored a number of books, including works on Henry James, Robert Frost, and Ralph Waldo Emerson and collections of criticism such as The Perfoming Self: Compositions and Decompositions in the Languages of Contemporary Life.

Richard Poirier died in his Manhattan home on August 15, 2009.