Ralph Cohen papers and "New Literary History" records
Both the highly regarded New Literary History Journal and the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change reflect Cohen's belief that there is a need to understand multiple disciplines when evaluating literature and human nature. He also felt that it is necessary to nurture a genuine respect for different perspectives of other individuals as a pathway to becoming a better society. Each issue of the New Literary History Journal selects a theme and invites authors to create opposing dialogues. As a strong promoter of multiculturalism and feminism, he included authors from the non-western world, and men and women with varying points of view and different backgrounds. Frequent authors/contributors are George Garrett, Joyce A. Joyce, Ihab Hassan, Toril Moi, Xiaoying Wang, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., David Bleich, Hayden White, Paul Ricoeur, Helene Cixous, William K. Winsat, Robert Weimann, Jonathan Culler, Martha Nussbaum, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Gerald Graff, Murray Krieger, Michael Riffaterre, Barbara Hernstein Smith, Fredric Jameson, Jerome McGann, Wolfgang Iser, Jean Starobinski, Northrup Frye, Geoffrey Hartman, Wolf Lupenies, Eddie Tomarken, Rene Welleck, Marshall McCluhan, Tzvetan Todorov, Terry Eagleton, Brian Stock, Catharine R. Stimpson, Frances Ferguson, Rita Felski, Rey Chow, Cora Diamond, Michael Prince, Winfried Fluck, Sandra Gilbert, Gary Saul Morson, Katherine Neeley, Stanley Fish, James M. Holquist, Keith Moxey, Richard Rorty, Walter Sokel, and many others.
In Series 2 the Ralph Cophen papers reflect his teaching and lecturing from the years 1948 to 2011 on Eighteenth-Century literature and literary theory such as correspondence, lecture notes, class materials, articles, conferences, manuscripts, and printed journals. The content in this part of the collection spans Ancient and Medieval Literature ("The Greats"), English and Continental Literature 1660-1770, English and Continental Literature 1770 to 1900, British Literature, American 19th and 20th Century Literature and literary history, literary change, literary criticism, aesthetics, psychology, and genre. These materials cover a complete and impressive range of literary authors and their works throughout the history of literature including the Bible, ballads and medieval manuscripts, Chaucer, Homer, Virgil, Pope, Donne, Blake, Hume, Thomson, Dryden, Milton, Machiavelli, Dante, Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Austen, Cather, T.S. Eliot, George Elliot, Ellen Glasgow, Emily Dickenson, the Romantics, the Nature Poets, Swift, Olaudah Equiano, James, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Woolf, and many more. These lecture notes reveal the scope and wealth of Ralph Cohen's vast knowledge of literature and offer an opportunity for others to continue learning through his papers.
Of interest are papers written by Ralph Cohen when he was a young college student, and which are included with the papers written by his students on similar subjects. There are also drafts of articles by Ralph Cohen outlining his plans for the New Literary History, and interviews with Ralph Cohen about his teaching. As an editor, Ralph Cohen sought to publish the work of his colleagues, but this collection has some of his original drafts of articles on literary theory. (Series 2: Box 85 and 86)
The collection also includes the personal papers of Ralph Cohen's family including his wife, Libby Okun Cohen and their two children, Ruth Cohen Morris, and David Morris. The Cohen's daughter was married to David B. Morris who co-taught some classes with Ralph Cohen. There are mementos and readings documenting many of the family Seder (Pesach Haggadah). Libby Cohens' papers show her love of learning; her work in an intergenerational project (L'Dor V'Dor) with students and older generations; a Holocaust Oral History project, independent research in genealogy, and her career as an outstanding librarian.
- Cohen, Ralph, 1917-2016 (Teacher, Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
He was married to Libby Okun Cohen for more than 70 years. She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 11, 1913. Due to persecution, her family emigrated to Vilna (now Vilnius) early in her life. She was a frequent companion in Ralph's classes and at his speaking engagements around the world, intent both on supporting her husband and continuing her own education. She co-wrote the index of Volumes I-X for the "New Literary History". She was a librarian at California State College Northridge and created the library at the Tandem Friends School where she was the librarian from 1970 to 1986. Under her inspired and challenging guidance, the multifaceted library generated unprecedented dialogue and quickly became known as "Tandem's Cultural Center. The Tandem library honored her by naming it the Libby O. Cohen Library. She also helped build the multicultural library at the University's Sundberg International Center. She spoke many languages and partnered with her husband as a promoter of education and multiculturalism. James Madison University established the Libby Okun Cohen Chair in technological humanism while her husband was teaching there. She was also an author of children stories, an independent genealogy researcher, a project coordinator for an oral history project that interviewed survivors from Nazi Germany, and an intergenerational program L’Dor V’Dor for young students to learn and share in the lives of older individuals. Ralph and Libby Cohen had two children, Ruth Cohen Morris, and David Cohen who were both born during World War II. Ruth Morris followed in her mother's footsteps by completing a doctorate in Information and Library Science at the University of Michigan, thereby initiating her career as a distinguished librarian. She was married to David B. Morris who co-taught some courses with Ralph Cohen. Libby Cohen died at age 99 in 2013. Ralph Cohen also died at age 99 in 2016.
Sources: http://best-hashtags.com/hashtag/teacherappreciation/ https://news.virginia.edu/content/memoriam-ralph-cohen-professor-who-transformed-literary-criticism-0 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/380552/pdf https://dailyprogress.com/ralph-cohen/article_de380d0a-185c-510e-b74d-3a33511feed3.html https://www.jstor.org/stable/469184?seq=1 https://www.jmu.edu/cohencenter/our-people/cohen-ralph.shtml https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236774952_History_and_Change_An_Interview_with_Ralph_Cohen https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Genre_Theory_and_Historical_Change_Theoretical_Ess?id=0PsmDwAAQBAJ&hl=sw https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/Ralph-Cohen/dp/0813940117 Ralph Cohen, “Notes for a History” (from within the collection) Video interview: https://www.jmu.edu/news/2010/10/18-ralph-cohen.shtml
75 Cubic Feet (This collection contains 150 document boxes, over 100 computer disks, 686 audio-cassettes, articles, lectures, class materials, newspaper clippings, photographs, albums, certificates, and seven oversize folders of certificates and photographs)
Language of Materials
Series 1, Subseries 1: Ralph Cohen's New Literary History correspondence as an editor and founder of the New Literary History Journal. It includes correspondence with the contributors (scholarly critics) along with their articles for publication. This makes up a substantial part of Series 1. (1969-1997) Boxes 3-33. There is also Ralph Cohen correspondence with other editors from 1984 to 1994 Boxes 1-3. Included is Ralph Cohen's teaching correspondence with his colleagues and students. The teaching correspondence for the same time is also in Series 2. (It was not combined because the original order kept them separate.)
Series 1, Subseries 2: Ralph Cohen articles about planning the New Literary History Journal, and other print and manuscripts related to the Journal. (1975-2004) Boxes 33-34.
Series 1, Subseries 3: 686 audio cassette recordings of some of the contributors who were prominent scholars on literary theory in the 1990's. (List available upon request)
Series 1, Subseries 4 contains over 100 computer files with articles from contributors and prominent scholars of literary theory for the Journal from 1998-2006. (List available upon request)
Series 1, Subseries 5: financial records of the New Literary History Journal. (1969-1986) Boxes 34-37.
Series 1, Subseries 6: papers of the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change. (1988-1992) Boxes 37-42. (There are no articles or correspondence representing the following issues: Volumes 1-III, Volume IV, Number 1, Volume VIII, Volume IX, Volume X, Volume XV, Volume XVI Number 1, and Number 2, Volume 23, Volume 24 Number 1 and Number 2, Volume 25, and Volume 27. The last issue represented in the paper collection is Volume 28(1997). The Journal issues change to cardinal numbers after Volume 19 and the Journal becomes quarterly after Volume 20 in 1990 so that the papers from the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change could be included.
Series 2 Ralph Cohen papers contain Ralph Cohen's work as a teacher and leader in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Literary Theory. (1948-2015)Boxes 49-130; Boxes 138-150 (restricted).
Series 2, Subseries 1: correspondence which is like the Ralph Cohen teaching correspondence in Series 1. There is also correspondence related to many of the organizations that were part of his work. (1971-2015) Boxes 43-49
Series 2, Subseries 2: Classes and Research is a significant part of Series 2 which contains class lecture notes, class materials, readings, conferences, printed articles and journals, manuscripts, and bibliographic research (on index cards). The term research mostly refers to the notes that he made for his lectures or the actual lectures. This subseries is organized loosely by periods in English Literature (Ancient and Medieval Literature "The Greats", English and Continental Literature 1660-1770, English and Continental Literature 1770-1900, British Literature, American Literature 19th and 20th Century, then by literary history, literary change, literary theory, aesthetics, psychology, and genre. Some of the class information and content may repeat throughout this series because many courses share similar authors and content. Classes that Dr. Cohen taught in the 1950's can be found in the same folders with the classes that he taught in 2000 since he arranged them by class subject matter. Much of the material is not dated. Included within his course materials are papers that he wrote on similar subjects when he was a student at New York Teachers College in 1948 through 1950. (1948-2011) Boxes 49-130
Series 2, Subseries 3: restricted materials (due to FERPA) such as fellowships, grades, recommendations, and dissertation information. (1972-2013)Boxes 138-150. (Restricted items are mostly arranged by alphabetically or chronologically but they do not follow a consistent pattern in the original order)
Series 3: Family papers of Ralph Cohen. Subseries 1 contains Ralph Cohen's personal papers (1964-2016) Boxes 131-132. Subseries 2. Libby Okun Cohen (and family papers) contain materials related to Libby Cohen, as a genealogist, researcher, and award-winning librarian. (1964-2002 and undated) Boxes 133-137.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- African American Women Authors
- American Literature--19th Century--History and Criticism
- American Literature--20th Century--History and Criticism
- American Literature--Colonial period--1600-1775 History and criticism
- American Literature--History and Criticism--1783-1850
- Burton, Larry W.
- Criticism--Technique; Evaluation of Literature; Literary Criticism; Literature--Evaluation
- Critics literary critics
- English Literature--18th Century
- James Madison University
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- McGann, Jerome J.
- New literary history
- University of California Los Angeles Department of English
- University of Virginia -- Department of English
- University of Virginia -- Faculty
- Women literary critics
- Ralph Cohen papers and New Literary History Journal records
- Ellen Welch
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States