- The Terrence Des Pres papers consist of biographical materials, course material, United States Holocaust Memorial Council materials, correspondence, photographs, printed material, subject files, and writing documenting professor and author Terrence Des Pres, his 1976 book on survivors and the Holocaust, the literature courses he taught at Colgate University, including one on the literature of the Holocaust, his service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council during its early years, his extensive interest in matters relating to poetry, politics, and oppression in literature and current affairs, and his relationships with friends, colleagues, and intellectuals who shared his interests. Most of the materials related to the study, documentation, and memorialization of Holocaust victims and survivors are contained within Series 2, 3, and 4, but additional relevant material can be found throughout the collection.
Series 1, Biographical materials, includes identification papers, academic records, resumes, awards, and pocket calendars outlining Terrence Des Pres’ life and achievements. This series also includes a memorial pamphlet dedicated to Des Pres that includes personal testimonies from friends and colleagues and a nearly thorough bibliography of Des Pres’ writings. A memorial conference held in 1996 in Des Pres’ honor is also documented in this series.
Series 2, The Survivor, documents Des Pres’ first book, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, published in 1976. Documents include notes, correspondence, reviews, and advertisements documenting the development, design, publication, promotion, and reception of the book as well as successful efforts to obtain Elie Wiesel’s endorsement of the book.
Series 3, Course material, documents courses Terrence Des Pres taught at Colgate University in the 1970s and 1980s. The first subseries contains curricula, evaluations, and lecture notes documenting the structure and content of Terrence Des Pres course on the literature of the Holocaust. This subseries also contains original or photocopied student journals which Des Pres required from his students and which document student responses to the course material. They often contain personal and emotional reflections on the Holocaust, on the students’ lives, on their memories, and on their dreams. The
second subseries contains curricula, evaluations, and lecture notes documenting other courses Des Pres taught at Colgate University on British and Irish literature, journalism, literary criticism, rhetoric, and the literature of the Vietnam War.
Series 4, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, documents Terrence Des Pres’ service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council from 1980 through 1987. Records include correspondence, promotional materials, notes, committee records, meeting records, newsletters, notes, and photographs documenting the establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Des Pres’ appointment and committee assignments, and commemorative events and conferences. They also document Des Pres’ particular interest in the Committee on Conscience, Armenian genocide and conflicts in Latin America as well as his work on establishing a journal on Holocaust and genocide studies and a national essay contest for students.
Series 5, Correspondence, consists of correspondence between Terrence Des Pres and friends, relatives, colleagues, publishers, grant organizations, and societies documenting Des Pres’ teaching and writing career, political and intellectual interests, and personal life. Topics covered by the correspondence vary widely and include poetry, literature, politics, genocide, the publishing business, the Bread Loaf conference at Middlebury College, professional obligations, and current events. Some of the correspondence is accompanied by clippings, forms, or photographs. Most of the correspondence is
addressed to Des Pres, but this series also includes copies of some of his own letters. Some of the correspondents included in this series are Peter Balakian, Morton Bloomfield, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Harry James Cargas, Ellen Fine, Eva Fleischner, Carolyn Forche, Gail Godwin, Georges Borchardt, Inc., Patricia Hampl, Geoffrey Hartman, Elizabeth Hecht, Lisa Hillenbrand, Seamus Heaney, John Irving, Alfred Kazin, Gordon Lish, Cynthia Ozick, Elisabeth Sifton, Mona Van Duyn and Jarvis Thurston, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Elie Wiesel, and Ruth Zerner. This series also includes some correspondence between Des Pres and his father, son, first wife, and second wife; outgoing correspondence whose addressee is not immediately identifiable; and recommendations Des Pres provided for colleagues and student.
Series 6, Photographic materials, includes black and white copy-prints of Holocaust atrocity photographs, three post-period color photographs of a concentration camp, slides of Holocaust photographs and artwork, and a set of slides titled “The Precious Legacy – Judaic Treasures from the Czechoslovak State Collections.” Additional photographs of Terrence Des Pres, his friends and colleagues, and events can be found throughout the collection.
Series 7, Printed materials, includes advertisements for events featuring Terrence Des Pres; materials mentioning Des Pres; and articles, chapters, and book excerpts by authors such as Sir Isaiah Berlin, Bruno Bettelheim, Charlotte Delbo, Alexander Donat, Kai T. Erikson, Emil L. Fackenheim, Kitty Hart, Raoul Hilberg, Rudolf Hoess, Chaim Kaplan, Gerda Klein, Anatoly Kuznetsov, Primo Levi, Cynthia Ozick, Gisela Perl, Emmanuel Ringelblum, E.P. Thompson, Rudolf Vrba, Elie Wiesel, and Ruth Zerner. Most of the printed materials cover topics related to the Holocaust and Soviet Gulags, including many personal
narratives, but additional topics include current affairs and literary criticism. Additional printed materials in this series include articles, book reviews, clippings, drawings, and maps.
Series 9, Writings, documents Terrence Des Pres’ writing career including student work, his dissertation on Robinson Jeffers, books he wrote or was in the process of writing, essays, articles, lectures, introductions to other writers’ books, poems, reviews of other writers’ work, and notes. The Student work subseries includes essays on literature, philosophy, and authors such as Chaucer, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, and Saul Bellows. The dissertation subseries documents Terrence Des Pres’ work on his dissertation on American poet Robinson Jeffers. Records include drafts of chapters, subject files, and notes. The books subseries primarily documents Terrence Des Pres’ second book, Praises and Dispraises: Poetry and Politics, the 20th Century, which was published posthumously and discusses the political role of poetry. Records include correspondence, contracts, drafts, and notes. The books subseries also includes drafts and a proof copy of Des Pres’ first book The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, and a copy of Writing into the World, a posthumous anthology of Des Pres’ work. The essays, articles, and lectures subseries includes drafts, published articles, and notes documenting
Des Pres’ prolific career as an essayist and orator. These documents were published in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Partisan Review, Harper’s, The New Republic, The Nation, Human Rights Quarterly, The Yale Review, and some topics include the Holocaust, survival, poetry and politics, literature, Czeslaw Milosz, Bertolt Brecht, John Gardner, John Irving, Seamus Heaney, and Vietnam. The introductions subseries includes three introductions Terrence Des Pres wrote for the books 3 By Irving by John Irving, Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel by Ellen S. Fine, and The Armenian Genocide in Perspective edited by Richard G. Hovanessian. The poems subseries includes poems believed to have been written by Terrence Des Pres, but it is possible that some of the poems in this subseries were written by other poets. The reviews subseries consists of reviews by Terrence Des Pres of works of fiction and books about the
Holocaust, nuclear war, and the Vietnam war by authors such as John Irving, Joseph Brodsky, Geoffrey Hartman, Marc Kaminsky, and George Steiner. The notes subseries includes notes, notebooks, and notecards. Some are more formal notes relating to specific ideas or projects, while others appear to be of marginal use. This subseries also contains floppy disks that have not been reviewed but appear to be backup disks for obsolete systems.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elizabeth Gaufberg
- Collection Creator
- Terrence Des Pres Ph.D.
Terrence Des Pres (1939-1987) was born in Effingham, Illinois, graduated from Southeast Missouri State College in 1962, completed graduate degrees in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, and spent time at Harvard University as a Junior Fellow. As a professor at Colgate University he taught classes on poetry, British and Irish literature, and the literature of the Holocaust. His first book, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, explores what the study of concentration camp prisoners can teach us about human dignity. His second book, Praises and Dispraises, was published posthumously in 1988 and deals with poetry and politics. Des Pres was appointed to the first United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council by President Carter in 1980 and served until 1987.