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Writer Cynthia Ozick’s archive is an intimate glimpse into 20th century American Literature

Cynthia Ozirk, poète et romancière américaine. (Photo by Micheline Pelletier/Sygma via Getty Images)
Micheline Pelletier
Sygma via Getty Images
Writer Cynthia Ozick donated 392 boxes of manuscripts and personal correspondence to Yale's Beinecke Library.

Scholars of 20th century literature have a new resource at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library — the literary papers of renowned writer and critic Cynthia Ozick.

Ozick is an award-winning novelist, essayist and short story writer. Her stories are often about politics, history and life as a Jewish American.

Ozick’s literary archive, which Yale acquired in 2021, is vast — 329 boxes in all — and contains handwritten and typed drafts of her novels, stories and essays, as well as personal papers from her early years.

The archive also contains decades of correspondence between Ozick and some of the most important writers of the second half of the 20th century, novelists like John Updike, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

“It’s like a pantheon of American writers,” said Melissa Barton, curator of prose and drama for the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. “It becomes not only a record of her extraordinary career, but a record of this moment in the history of American literature.

Barton said the letters could give researchers and scholars a fresh perspective on Ozick’s writing process.

“The writers that she is in conversation with, the questions they are having, that conversation is all happening in their correspondence, in their feedback to one another,” said Barton. “People are sending her manuscripts, and she’s giving feedback to them.

Cynthia Ozick is still writing at the age of 95. Last month, her short story, “A French Doll” was published in the online version of The New Yorker magazine. Ozick recently commented about her archive. She wrote “I will be forever astonished to think that unknown persons may come to poke among my old papers and all their crossed-out sentences.”

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