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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2461

Harry Levin papers

Papers of Harry Levin, American literary critic, scholar of modernism and comparative literature, and the Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.


  • 1920-1995

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Use

Most of this collection is open for research use. There are a number of restrictions that apply to portions of these papers as follows:
  1. The "Recommendations series" is restricted for 80 years.
  2. Some Harvard University departmental files are also marked restricted and fall under the Harvard University records 50-year restriction rule.
  3. A few folders are still under curatorial review as of July 2007 and are restricted until this review is finished. They are marked as restricted in this finding aid.
Contact curator for access.


37 linear feet (30 boxes)

Collection consists primarily of professional correspondence of Harry Levin with his colleagues, especially with members of the Harvard University community, and of compositions by Harry Levin. The compositions often went through several drafts and include autograph revisions in Levin's hand.

Correspondents include: John Ashbery, W.H. Auden, John Mason Brown, T.S. Eliot, Richard Ellmann, Nadine Gordimer, Jorge Guillén, Lincoln Kirstein, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Vladimir Nabokov, Octavio Paz, Erich Segal, John Updike, René Wellek and many others.

The papers also include: correspondence of others, including his wife, Elena Levin, and his secretary, Betty Anne Farmer; compositions by others such as James T. (James Thomas) Farrell, James Laughlin, Robert Penn Warren, and many others; biographical materials, including photographs and Levin's resumes; reference materials on James Joyce; and a recommendations series that is restricted.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Tuchman Levin was an American literary critic, author, and a professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. He was one of the most influential literary critics of the twentieth century and is considered one of the founders of the field of Comparative Literature in the United States.

He was born in 1912 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Isadore Henry and Beatrice Tuchman Levin. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in 1933 and began teaching there in 1939. Also in 1939, he married Elena Zarudnaya and they had a daughter, Marina. He was named the Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature in 1960, a position he held until his retirement in 1983.

Levin wrote on such varied subjects as William Shakespeare, comedy, modernism, and the Renaissance. Some of his major works include: The Power of Blackness: Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Memories of the Moderns, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance, Shakespeare and the Revolution of the Times, Playboys and Killjoys: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Comedy, and many others, covering a broad range of general and comparative literature, as well as specific studies of individual writers and works. In 1985, the first Harry Levin prize was awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association for a book on literary history or criticism.

Harry Levin died in Cambridge, Massashusetts in 1994.


Organized into the following series:
  1. I. Correspondence with Harry Levin
  2. II. Subject files
  3. III. Other correspondence
  4. ___A. Correspondence with Betty Anne Farmer
  5. ___B. Letters to Elena Levin
  6. ___C. Correspondence by others
  7. IV. Compositions by Harry Levin
  8. V. Compositions by others
  9. VI. Biographical materials concerning Harry Levin
  10. VII. Reference file on James Joyce
  11. VIII. Recommendations [Restricted]

Physical Location

b [Temporarily shelved at MS Stor 342 until fully end-processed]

Immediate Source of Acquisition

94M-75, 97M-42. Gift of Elena Levin, 14 Kirkland Place, Cambridge, MA 02138; received: 1995 March 8 and 1997 December 29.

Items (1836) - (1842) Recataloged from: P 841.9*. (2001-1097F). Gift of Harry T. Levin; materials transferred from Houghton Department of Rare Books, 2005.

2007M-50 2 letters within item (908) gift of Irving Singer; received: 2008 January 8.

2012M-130. The bulk of item (260) purchased with funds from the Frank Brewer Bemis Bequest; received: 2013 January 31.

Processing Information

Processed by: Jessica Suárez and Megan O'Shea
Link to catalog
Levin, Harry, 1912-1994. Harry Levin papers, 1920-1995: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Cataloging funded by the Francis P. Scully and Robert G. Scully Class of 1951 Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440