Harry Mathews papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Born in New York City on February 14, 1930, Harry Mathews was the son of Edward and Mary Mathews. He was educated at the Groton School in Massachusetts. In the fall of 1947, Mathews began courses at Princeton University, but left during his sophomore year to serve in the United States Navy. After returning to civilian life, Mathews completed undergraduate studies at Harvard, earning a B.A. in music in 1952.
Following his graduation, he continued to study music at the École Normale de Musique in Paris and following, he lived in Europe, chiefly in France. During his early career in Paris, Mathews met John Ashbery, and according to an interview in the Paris Review, "what I think of my writing life began when I met him." (Art of Fiction, No. 191, 2007). As a result of Mathews' relationship with Ashbery, he was introduced to the writing of Raymond Roussel who served as a major inspiration in Mathews' early writing.
In 1960, Matthews, along with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, founded and edited the literary magazine, Locus Solus. They published four issues of the magazine from 1960 to 1962. In 1970, he met Georges Perec, another source of inspiration, who introduced him into the world of the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature (Oulipo). This group of writers and mathematicians was founded in Paris in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. In 1973, Mathews was elected the only American member of the Oulipo. Mathews edited the The Oulipo Compendium which included biographical, bibliographic, and theoretical information on the group.
Mathews returned to the United States in 1976 to teach at Bennington College, where he focused on French literature during his three year tenure. For much of his life, Mathews' career was dedicated to writing. His best known books include The Conversions (1962), Tlooth (1966), the Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (1975), Selected Declarations of Dependence (1977), Country Cooking and Other Stories (1980), Cigarettes (1987), Singular Pleasures (1988), Journalist (1994), and My Life in CIA (2005). He is also the author of several poetry collections (Armenian Papers) and essay collections (Case of the Persevering Maltese) and has translated the work of several prominent authors, including Marie Chaix and Georges Perec.
Mathews married artist Niki de Saint Phalle at age 19 and their marriage lasted until 1960. In the late 1970s, Mathews met his wife, novelist Marie Chaix, who together currently divide their time between New York City, Key West, Florida, and France. He is father to Laura and Philip who were born in 1951 and 1955 respectively. He died on January 25, 2017, at the age of 86.
For greater detail on Mathews' life, see his autobiographical sketch published in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 6 (Box 1, Folder 9) as well as "The Art of Fiction No. 191" published in the Paris Review in 2007 (Box 17, Folder 12 as well as online).
This collection documents the professional life, and to a lesser extent, the personal life of Harry Mathews. The collection, arranged in seven series, includes drafts, typescripts, and corrected typescripts of Mathews' prose and poetry; publicity and promotion resulting from his literary work; research files probably used for writing his books; teaching and workshop records; writings by others; extensive correspondence which is restricted from use unless permission is granted by Mathews; and a small amount of audio visual material as well as several computer files.
As a whole, this collection provides insight into Mathews' writing process, his body of work, and the literary community in France and the United States in the last half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.
Researchers will find more detailed descriptions of material at the series level.
Sold by Harry Mathews, 1995; subsequent annual purchases from 2006 to present.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2016 March 4
- Access Restrictions
Much of this collection is open for research use. However, pursuant to restrictions placed into effect by Harry Mathews, all correspondence in the collection is restricted from use until ten years after his and his correspondents' deaths, unless permission is granted by him. Researchers interested in viewing correspondence in this collection should email the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rarebooks, and Manuscripts for permission to be gained by Mathews.
Access to original audio/visual materials and computer files (located in box 44) is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (email@example.com) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.