Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Marilyn French papers, 1957-2009, bulk 1978-2008

Summary Information


Papers of author and feminist critic Marilyn French. The collection documents French's literary career, including manuscripts of literary works and documentation of the publication and promotion of her works.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1584
Bib ID 8896265 View CLIO record
Creator(s) French, Marilyn, 1929-2009
Title Marilyn French papers, 1957-2009, bulk 1978-2008
Physical Description 27.83 linear feet (27 record cartons and 2 document boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection has no restrictions. 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.



Material is arranged into four series.



The Marilyn French Papers contain a nearly complete record of French's literary life and production. Along with manuscripts and research notes for her books, the collection is particularly strong in documenting the business end of literary production, including contracts and significant files related to the publicizing and promotion of her work, including speaking tours, lectures, and travel. The collection also contains a small number of unpublished or not-fully-realized manuscripts and poems, including an unpublished memoir and detailed research files for an unwritten novel.

  • Series I: Business and Promotional Records, 1957-2008

    This series, which comprises the bulk of the collection, documents the business side of French's literary and scholarly career. It includes contracts, correspondence concerning foreign rights and permissions, and files related to publicizing and promoting her work. There is a significant amount of correspondence between French and agent, Charlotte Sheedy; this series is particularly strong in documenting Sheedy's role in placing and promoting French's work.

  • Series II: Writings, 1957-2009

    The writings series includes manuscripts, notes, drafts, and research files French drafted or compiled in the course of writing her novels, articles, and non-fiction monographs. The series includes materials related to her earliest academic writings, as well as her major works of fiction and non-fiction.

  • Series III: Calendars, Datebooks, and Personal Correspondence, 1977-2008

    This series is comprised of French's desk planners and datebooks. She kept careful records of her activities, and those are reflected in these books.

  • Series IV: Books by Marilyn French, 1964-2007

    This series represents a complete run of first editions of French's published work. Also included are bound copies of her Masters Essay and doctoral dissertation.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection has no restrictions. 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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Marilyn French 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

Processing Information

Papers processed ceh 2012.

Finding aid written ceh 03/28/2013.

Revision Description

2013-03-29 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:"
Feminism -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
French, Marilyn, 1929-2009 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Marilyn French was born in New York City in 1929. She married the attorney Robert M. French, Jr. in 1950; the couple divorced in 1967.

She received her B.A. in English from Hofstra University in 1951, and later returned to Hofstra for her M.A. degree in the Humanities, which she was awarded in 1964. The couple had two children, and Robert. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Harvard University in 1972. Her dissertation on James Joyce was published by Harvard University Press in 1976 with the title The Book as World: James Joyce's Ulysses, and constitutes her first major work of literary criticism.

Upon completion of her PhD, French began teaching at the College of the Holy Cross, where she remained until 1976 when she took a one year teaching fellowship at Harvard University, after which she left the academy to focus on her career as a writer.

Though French had an impressive academic career, she is best known as a novelist and a feminist critic. Her feminist novel The Women's Room was published in 1977 and her second novel, The Bleeding Heart followed in 1980.

In addition to her fiction she was a feminist critic and her works of feminist criticism, Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals and The War Against Women established her as a leading voice in radical feminist intellectual discourse.

French was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1992; she documented her experience as a cancer patient in the memoir My Season in Hell.

French died of heart failure in 2009. She was 79.