crown CU Home > Libraries Home
Columbia University Libraries Archival CollectionsRare Book & Manuscript Library Collections

   Marilyn French papers, 1957-2009 [Bulk Dates: 1978-2008]

Download and Print CitationContact Bookmark Share

Preferred Citation

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

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

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 Dates: 1978-2008]
Physical description:27.83 linear feet (27 record cartons, and 2 document boxes).
Language(s): Material is in English.
Access: This collection has no 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.  More information »



Material is arranged into four series

Return to top


Scope and Content

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 The collection also contains a small number of unpublished or not-fully-realized manuscripts and poems, including an unpublished memoir and detailed research files for an unwritten novel.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.

Subseries I.1: Business and Promotional Records by Book, 1974-2006

In this subseries the materials are grouped together by book, and arranged chronologically by publication date of the book. A typical file will include contracts, correspondence, rights and permissions files, promotional material, and reviews (domestic and international) of the book.

Subseries II.2: Chronological and General Business Records, 1957-2008

This subseries, arranged chronologically, includes files not specifically related to a particular book or promotional tour. It includes correspondence, files related to interviews and speaking engagements, and correspondence related to the placement of short stories and journal or magazine articles. The subseries also includes photographs and proposals for films and television programs based on French's work.

Subseries I.3: Professional Activities, 1986-2008

The professional activities subseries documents French's involvement with various scholarly, literary, and feminist organizations, as well as her teaching career. It also includes files on various awards and honors awarded to French over the course of her career. Finally, it includes a subject file of women's issues that French compiled and maintained relating to women's political, activist, and cultural organizations, as well as general subjects affecting women.

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.

Subseries II.1: Books, 1964-2009

The books subseries is notable for its inclusion of plot summaries and research files related to an unwritten novel, Sarah Murtagh. It also includes preliminary drafts and notes for Depression Baby an unpublished memoir.

Subseries II.2: Essays and Articles, 1957-2005

The Essays and Articles Subseries includes manuscripts and related material for essays and articles that French submitted to magazines and academic journals. They chronicle both her academic interests (in James Joyce, Edith Wharton, and feminist literary criticism) as well as her political activism and her work as a feminist cultural critic.

Subseries II.3: Short Stories, Poems, and Reviews, undated and 1994

This subseries is comprised of manuscripts and drafts of French's short stories and poems, several unpublished, and notes and ideas for unrealized literary works. This subseries also includes French's reviews of others' works.

Subseries II.4: Talks and Lectures, 1978-2002

The Talks and Lectures subseries is comprised of texts of and notes for speeches and lectures French delivered at various events and conferences. Many files also include supporting correspondence, travel information, and other material related to planning and coordinating these lectures.

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.

Return to top

Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection has no 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.

Restrictions on Use

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.

Return to top

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 2012 ceh

Finding aid written 03/28/2013 ceh

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion March 29, 2013 Finding aid written in English.
    2013-03-29 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

Return to top

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:
French, Marilyn, 1929-2009.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Publishers and Publishing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Return to top

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.

Return to top