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David L. Vanderwerken research collection on Chaim Potok


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

David L. Vanderwerken was an American literary scholar. Born in Canastota, NY in 1945, Vanderwerken was a graduate of Colgate and Rice Universities, and in 1971 became a professor of English Literature at Texas Christian University (TCU). During his forty-three year teaching and research career at TCU he received the Distinguished Teaching Award, an award for Distinguished Achievement as a Creative Teacher Scholar, was twice nominated for the Chancellor's Award, and was a Fullbright Scholar to Hungary in 2005 and 2008. He was the author of Faulkner's Literary Children (Modern American Literature vol. 8) (1997); Sport in the Classroom: Teaching Sport-Related Courses in the Humanities (1990); and Sport Inside Out: Readings in Literature and Philosophy (1986). At the time of Vanderwerken's death in 2015, he was working on an extensive critical biography of Chaim Potok.

The author Chaim Potok was born in the Bronx, NY in 1929, to a family of Polish Hasidic immigrants. Discouraged from pursuing a talent in drawing and painting, he pursued an Orthodox Jewish theological education at the Yeshiva schools, where he discovered the novels of Evelyn Waugh, which convinced him to pursue a career as a writer. After graduating from Yeshiva University, Potok abandoned Orthodox Judaism and enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America to become a Conservative rabbi. His first published novel, The Chosen, was an immediate and enduring popular success, and was nominated for the National Book Award, inaugurating a long literary career in which he produced novels, nonfiction, literary criticism, books for children, and collaborated on a new English translation of the Hebrew bible. His bibliography includes the novels The Promise (1967), My Name is Asher Lev (1972), In the Beginning (1975), The Book of Lights (1981), Davita's Harp (1985), The Gift of Asher Lev (1990), and I Am the Clay (1992); the short story and novella collections Zebra and Other Stories (1998) and Old Men at Midnight (2001); the nonfiction works The Jew Confronts Himself in Modern Literature (1975), Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews (1978), Tobiasse: Artist in Exile (1986), The Gates of November (1996), and Isaac Stern: My First 79 Years (with Isaac Stern; 1999); and the children's books The Tree of Here (1993) and The Sky of Now (1994). After living briefly in Israel in the 1970s, Potok and his family settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where he died of a brain tumor in 2002.

This collection includes material related to David Vanderwerken's planned critical biography of author Chaim Potok. It contains correspondence concerning the proposal for the book, submitted as an application for funding from Vanderwerken's employer, Texas Christian University; research on the critical literature surrounding Potok's literary career, life, and art; research on the critical literature surrounding individual works by Potok; a Vanderwerken interview with Potok, including Potok's edits; and copies of Potok's novels and nonfiction works, with Vanderwerken's annotations.

The majority of the collection's arrangement preserves Vanderwerken's original order. The general research is organized at the subseries level by the type of secondary literature under review (articles and book chapters, theses and dissertations, online biographies). The research pertaining to the critical literature around specific works is organized alphabetically by title. The Vanderwerken interview is arranged chronologically. The copies of Potok works are organized alphabetically by title.

Gift of Karen Vanderwerken, 2015

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Sam Allingham
Finding Aid Date
2016 September 16
Access Restrictions

The bulk of this collection is open for research use. However, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files 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 ( 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.

Collection Inventory

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Correspondence and book proposal, 2000-2010.
Box 1 Folder 1

Preliminary research for book on Potok, 1999-2002.
Box 1 Folder 2
Articles and book chapters on Potok, with notes by Vanderwerken, 1962-1984.
Box 1 Folder 3
Articles and book chapters on Potok, with notes by Vanderwerken, 1985-1995.
Box 1 Folder 4
Articles and book chapters on Potok, with notes by Vanderwerken, 1995-2005.
Box 1 Folder 5
Theses and dissertations on Potok, with notes by Vanderwerken, 1965-1997.
Box 1 Folder 6
Biographies of Potok, with notes by Vanderwerken, 1999-2008.
Box 1 Folder 7
Research on Potok's paintings, 1999-2008.
Box 1 Folder 8

Book of Lights, 1981-1989.
Box 1 Folder 9
The Chosen, 1967-2007.
Box 1 Folder 10
Davita's Harp, 1985.
Box 1 Folder 11
The Gift of Asher Lev, 1990.
Box 1 Folder 12
I Am the Clay, 1992-1993.
Box 1 Folder 13
In the Beginning, 1975-1997.
Box 1 Folder 14
My Name is Asher Lev, 1972-2006.
Box 1 Folder 15
Old Men at Midnight, 2001.
Box 1 Folder 16
The Promise, 1969-1970.
Box 1 Folder 17
Zebra and Other Stories, 1998-1999.
Box 1 Folder 18
Ethical Living for a Modern World: Jewish Insights, 1968.
Box 1 Folder 19
The Gates of November, 1996-1998.
Box 1 Folder 20
The Jew Confronts Himself in Modern Literature, 1975.
Box 1 Folder 21
Tobiasse: Artist in Exile, 1986.
Box 1 Folder 22
Wanderings, 1978.
Box 1 Folder 23
My First 79 Years (with Isaac Stern), 1999.
Box 1 Folder 24
Notes on Potok's work for children, 1993-1996.
Box 1 Folder 25
Notes on Potok's uncollected short fiction, 1967-1993.
Box 1 Folder 26
Notes on Potok's plays, 1990-1993.
Box 1 Folder 27
Notes on Potok's book reviews, 1964-1998.
Box 1 Folder 28-29
Notes on Potok's introductions and forwards, 1973-1995.
Box 1 Folder 30
Notes on Potok's interviews, 1976-1998.
Box 1 Folder 31
Vanderwerken review of critical anthology on Potok, 2013.
Box 1 Folder 32

Transcripts of Vanderwerken's interview with Potok, including Potok's edits, 2000.
Box 1 Folder 33
Floppy disk containing Vanderwerken's interview with Potok [RESTRICTED], 2000.
Box 1 Folder 34

The Book of Lights (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1982.
Box 2 Folder 1
Davita's Harp (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1985.
Box 2 Folder 2
The Gift of Asher Lev (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1990.
Box 2 Folder 3
I am the Clay (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1992.
Box 2 Folder 4
In the Beginning (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1975.
Box 2 Folder 5
Old Men at Midnight, first edition, 2001.
Box 2 Folder 6
Old Men at Midnight (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 2008), 2002.
Box 2 Folder 7
The Promise (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1975), 1969.
Box 2 Folder 8
The Promise (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1990.
Box 2 Folder 9
The Gates of November (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1996.
Box 2 Folder 10
Wanderings (inscribed by Vanderwerken, 1999), 1983.
Box 2 Folder 11
My First 79 Years (with Isaac Stern, inscribed by Vanderwerken, 2000) , 2000.
Box 3 Folder 1
Chaim Potok: a Critical Companion, 2000.
Box 3 Folder 2
Chaim Potok: Confronting Modernity Through the Lens of Tradition , 2013.
Box 3 Folder 3
Good Conversation! (video interview with Potok) [RESTRICTED], 1997.
Box 3 Folder 4

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