Erica Jong’s Papers Acquired by Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library


NEW YORK, June 15, 2007 A large collection of archival material from Erica Jong, whose groundbreaking first novel, the international bestseller Fear of Flying, electrified readers around the world and added several phrases to the lexicon, has been acquired by Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The noted novelist, poet, essayist, and best-selling author has enjoyed a long association with both Columbia University and Barnard College.

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According to Michael Ryan, Director of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the collection provides an outstandingly full and intimate portrait of Jong, from her undergraduate years at Barnard through to the present. “Unlike many similar collections on other writers and artists,” he continues, “the Jong papers comprise an exceptionally rich and detailed archive. It will be of extraordinary value to anyone interested in the history of women in 20th and 21st-century America.”

“It is great to be able to welcome Erica back to the Columbia community,” said James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “Books and learning have played a dominant role in her career from the start, so it is appropriate that we now build in new ways on those foundations,” Neal observed, adding that Jong’s papers would lead the Columbia Libraries to redouble its efforts to document the history of women and feminism in contemporary American society.

An award-winning writer who has been integral in the creation of the contemporary feminine literature genre, Erica Jong is the author of eight novels, several of which have been worldwide bestsellers. Among her nonfiction works are Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir and The Devil at Large, a remembrance of her friendship with Henry Miller. She has also published six volumes of poetry. Her most recent book, Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, was released in March 2006. Jong has lectured, taught and read her work all over the world.

The Jong archive includes correspondence, manuscripts, and research notes on a wide variety of topics, much of which is unpublished. Of special note are Jong’s letters to and from John Updike, Henry Miller, and Louis Untermeyer. The archive also contains journals and diaries, photos, press clippings, and audiotapes of interviews, radio and live appearances.

“The addition of Erica Jong’s papers to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is yet another example of her unwavering dedication to imparting not only her gifts as a writer but also her wisdom and life experiences as a mentor and educator,” said Judith R. Shapiro, President of Barnard College. “We are proud that she is part of Barnard’s tradition of great writers, and even more proud that she has chosen to give back and actively influence future generations of novelists, poets, and essayists who will most certainly benefit from her frank, lively, and eloquent memoirs.”

Said Jong, “The archive shows my development as a poet, the explosion of celebrity after Fear of Flying, my difficulty in surviving that peculiar fame and my determination to get back to work as a literary writer. My first novel, a literary work with satirical and comic elements, perhaps became famous for the wrong reasons—sex, sex, and sex—but I was able to return to my roots as a poet and serious novelist and move forward. I’m pleased my collected papers have been welcomed at Columbia, where I look forward to offering insight on women’s literature, teaching master classes, and contributing as an advisor on the acquisition of other female authors’ papers, as well as to a significant symposium on my work planned for the 35th anniversary of Fear of Flying.”

The acquisition of Jong’s papers by Columbia is a continuation of her long-term relationship with the university. A cum laude graduate of Barnard College, Jong received an MA in English from Columbia, where she studied 18th-century English Literature under a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. She also attended Columbia’s graduate writing program where she studied poetry with Stanley Kunitz and Mark Strand. In 1996, she and her family endowed the Erica Mann Jong ’63 Writing Fellows Fund, which supports the Writing Fellows and provided for renovations to the building that houses the Erica Mann Jong ’63 Writing Center, a program at Barnard that teaches talented student writers to help other students improve their writing.

Erica Jong’s best known work, Fear of Flying, has sold more than 18 million copies and been translated into 30 languages. Her other titles include Sappho’s Leap; Fanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones; Shylock's Daughter (formerly titled Serenissima); Inventing Memory, a novel of mothers and daughters; Witches, What Do Women Want? and seven widely respected volumes of poetry, including Fruits & Vegetables, Half-Lives, Loveroot, At the Edge of the Body, and Becoming Light, among others. In 1998, she was honored with the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature. She has received Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize and the Deauville Award for Literary Excellence in France. In Italy, she was given the Sigmund Freud Award for Literature in 1975. An honorary doctorate was bestowed on Jong by the College of Staten Island, part of the City University of New York. For more information, please visit www.ericajong.com.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University owns more than 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children’s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive.

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