Richard Macksey papers
Scope and Contents
This series and its subseries consist of letters, manuscripts, and photographs of authors and writers of note collected by Professor Richard Macksey (1931-2019), who worked in what is now the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute and The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University from 1958 until his formal retirement in 2010. Professor Macksey was a noted bibliophile and in addition to collecting rare titles and editions, he also collected correspondence and manuscripts by noted French and English-speaking authors. He had direct ties and relationships with some of the people in this series; others he purchased or obtained third-hand because of his personal interest in their writings.
Some items in the series were obtained directly by Macksey or fellow professor Elliot Coleman (1906-1980), founder of the Writing Seminars. Both men worked at Johns Hopkins for decades and would invite authors and thinkers to campus to lecture. Sometimes these entreaties were declined, but in other cases they would spawn at least a written correspondence. Many documents in the “Hopkins Festival” sub-series were addressed to Coleman directly and likely given to Macksey by Coleman or his family. Other documents addressed to Macksey or Coleman are from former students who had gone on to become published writers and poets.
A significant portion of the French Letters subseries is Structuralist and Post-Structuralist thinkers. Most documents in this sub-series are in French. Some have translations included with them.
The “Hopkins Festival” sub-series is mainly devoted to individuals writing to show their support for The Hopkins Review, the quarterly journal of the Writing Seminar.
Because of this combination of Macksey’s personal interests and his professional work, the time range of the documents is quite wide. The range goes from 1653 to 2009, with most of the dates clustering around the mid to late 20th century.
- 1652 - 2009
- Majority of material found within 1953 - 2009
- Macksey, Richard, 1931-2019 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. This collection may be requested through Special Collections
Conditions Governing Use
Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.
Biographical / Historical
Richard Alan Macksey was born on July 25, 1931 in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University for part of his undergraduate degree before transferring to Johns Hopkins, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1953. He continued at Hopkins, completing a doctorate in Comparative Literature in 1958. During this time, he briefly worked at what is now Loyola University Baltimore. Upon completion of his doctorate, he took a position as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins in the Writing Seminars, where he remained until his formal retirement in 2010.
Macksey held Hopkins first classes in African-American literature, women’s studies, and publishing. He also expanded into film studies and encouraged the development of Hopkins first television station and programming. In 1966, he was instrumental in founding the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center (currently the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature). He and fellow Hopkins professors Eugenio Donato and Rene Girard hosted a seminal international symposium entitled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man.” At this symposium, many European structuralist critics spoke in the United States for the first time, and Jacques Derrida presented his critique of Structuralism and introduced Post-Structuralism to the intellectual mainstream.
In 1977, Macksey and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor and neurosurgeon George Udvarhelyi founded the School of Medicine’s Office of Cultural Affairs to increase cross-campus interaction between the humanities and medicine. In 1992, he helped to develop a four-year course at the School called “Physician and Society.” Macksey was also the editor of “MLN” (Modern Language Notes), Hopkins journal on European literary criticism for several years.
Able to read and write in six languages, Macksey maintained a depth of correspondence with friends, former students, colleagues, and other professors across North America and Europe. He was also a devoted bibliophile; at the time of his death, it is estimated he had 70,000 books in his home library, which would make it the largest private library in Maryland at that time. He collected rare editions, original manuscripts, and the letters of significant authors.
Richard and Catherine had one child, Alan Macksey, born in 1963. Catherine died in 2000 of cancer. Richard Macksey died on July 22, 2019, of pneumonia at the age of 87.
40 Cubic Feet (approx 40 record cartons--will shrink during processing)
Language of Materials
This collection is made up of the papers, letters, photographs, manuscripts, and other ephemera collected by Professor Richard Macksey (1931-2019), who worked in what is now the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute and The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University from 1958 until his formal retirement in 2010. Because of Macksey’s personal interests and his professional work, the time range of the documents is quite wide. The range goes from 1653 to 2009, with most of the dates clustering around the mid to late 20th century.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was received by Johns Hopkins Special Collections upon Richard Macksey’s death per previous arrangement.
This collection was processed in 2021 by Kathleen Morrison.
- Macksey, Richard, 1931-2019 (Person)
- Coleman, Elliott, 1906-1980 (Person)
- Eisenhower, Milton Stover, 1899-1985 (Person)
- Guide to the Richard Macksey Papers
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Special Collections Repository
The Sheridan Libraries
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA