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Donald Torchiana (1923-2001) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/11/31

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Scope and Contents

The Donald Torchiana Papers fill two boxes and span the period 1958-1992. The papers are divided into six subseries: biographical materials, correspondence, teaching files, research files, speeches, and publications. The bulk of the papers consists primarily of undated research notes and drafts of his more significant articles.

The biographical files include various curricula vitae with attached bibliographies, newspaper clippings, and a detailed background description written by Torchiana sometime around 1967. One of the more interesting details is his statement on a curriculum vitae supplement dated February 8, 1982 mentioning his hobbies/avocations as "violent athletics, collecting books and pictures, and raising hell in general." Obituaries and memorial materials were added to the biographical file in 2002.

There are many letters to and from people in Ireland and England whom Torchiana had contacted in the course of his research soliciting information and arranging visits. Notable among them are letters from Michael Yeats and G.M. Trevelyan. There are also many letters from family members, colleagues, and publishing houses, as well as postcards and holiday greeting cards.

Torchiana's teaching files from Northwestern include exams, syllabi, lecture notes, and student papers. There are also materials from the Yeats International Summer School, including programs, correspondence, and lecture schedules.

Torchiana's research notes are extensive. Notes from his 1958 summer fellowship include a notebook, note cards, and an admission ticket to the British Museum reading room. The balance of his research notes fill thirteen folders. Included are transcriptions of sources (books, articles, and letters), bibliographic citations, lists of various sources, photostatic copies and proofs of articles with notes written in the text and margins, and lists of contacts both in the U.S and abroad.

The balance of the papers relate to Torchiana's publications, including a paper read at the 1970 conference of the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature, and drafts, notes, galleys, proofs, and correspondence related to articles published between 1958-1975. Notes and proofs from his book W. B. Yeats and Georgian Ireland are also included. There are also book reviews written by Torchiana and reviews of books written by him.

Addition, Boxes 3-5

This addition to the Donald Torchiana Papers fills three boxes and spans the years 1951 to 1993.  Papers within the addition fall into five subseries: correspondence; teaching materials; lecture notes; speeches, addresses, and papers; and publications.  A significant portion of the addition consists of Torchiana’s lecture notes.  The materials within the addition have been arranged chronologically by date in each folder.  Two items were interfiled with the original donation (Box 1, folder 1): a program from a W. B. Yeats Summer School session in 1981, and two vitae from 1971 and 1989.

The addition contains extensive correspondence between Torchiana and friends and colleagues in Ireland, Britain, and the United States.  A majority of the correspondence was with friends overseas from whom he sought assistance in his research on W. B. Yeats, and Irish literature and history. A portion of the correspondence relates to arrangements for the shipment of copies of letters Yeats wrote to American friends, which Torchiana intended to compile and edit. Some of his correspondents from the world of literature include Aldous Huxley (letters from 1953), Yeats scholar Hazard Adams (letters from 1958), Samuel Becket (letter from 1981), and Marianne Moore (letter from 1964). Other letters of interest include those from the Irish Ambassador (letter from 1959) and from Gladys Van Wyck Brooks (letters from 1963). Torchiana also turned to the Yeats family for help in his research, and an extensive amount of correspondence documents his efforts. The correspondence also includes letters to and from publishing houses regarding Torchiana’s research or articles he was writing, as well as comments from friends about various speeches and papers he presented at conferences. The material in the addition also documents grants received by Torchiana, including the Fulbright Scholar Award and a grant from the American Philosophical Society.

The correspondence is divided into general correspondence, spanning the years 1951-1993, and individual or subject correspondence, spanning the years 1958-1991.  Some typed transcriptions of letters Torchiana received are interfiled in the appropriate locations.   

Torchiana’s teaching files include student papers, exams, class lists, schedules, syllabi, and extensive lecture notes. Torchiana lectured on a host of writers ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce to Nathanael West to Arthur Miller, covering many different aspects of literature including literary criticism, modernism, and rituals in novels from Robinson Crusoe to Pnin.  The lecture notes also reflect Torchiana’s studies of the English Aesthetic Movement of the 1890’s.

Torchiana wrote and published extensively on literary works in his field. His articles treat themes and characters in various literary works, writers, Irish poetry, and the centennial of the birth of W. B. Yeats. Torchiana’s publications include book reviews, a draft of a memoir, and a small number of reprinted articles.


  • 1958-2001


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Box 1 / Folder 11, Box 3 / Folder 15, and Box 4 / Folders 1-5 contain student information and are restricted.


5.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Donald Torchiana came to Northwestern University in 1953 as instructor in English from 1953-1959; he became an assistant professor in 1959, an associate professor in 1963, and a professor in 1968, until his retirement in 1989. His research interests were 18th century English and Irish literature, the Irish Literary Renaissance, modern literature, and the writings of Joyce, Yeats, Swift and Pope. The Donald Torchiana Papers fill five boxes and span the period 1958-1992. The papers are divided into six subseries: biographical materials, correspondence, teaching files, research files, speeches, and publications, including additions. The bulk of the papers consists primarily of undated research notes and drafts of his more significant articles.


The Donald Torchiana papers are organized into: biographical materials; correspondence; teaching files (some arranged by course number, others by content): research notes; speeches, addresses and papers; and publications (articles (arranged alphabetically), books, and book reviews). An addition contains more correspondence (general correspondence, arranged by date; correspondence with individuals, arranged by name), teaching files (with a substantial group of lecture notes), speeches/addresses/papers, and publications (articles, proposals and drafts, book reviews, and reprints; arranged chronologically).

Method of Acquisition

The Donald Torchiana Papers were transferred to the University Archives by R. Russell Maylone of the University Library's Special Collections on May 25, 1993 and June 26, 1995 as Accessions 93-69 and 95-97, respectively. They had previously been donated to the Special Collections Department by Professor Torchiana.

Separated Materials

Approximately three cubic inches of extraneous materials were separated from the collection and discarded. A folder of photographs used as proofs for Torchiana's 1966 book W. B. Yeats and Georgian Ireland were discarded after their reproduction in the book was confirmed.

Other Descriptive Information

Two items from an addition were interfiled with the original series (Box 1, folder 1): a program from a W. B. Yeats Summer School session in 1981, and two vitae from 1971 and 1989.

Processing Information

Michael A. Napora; March 1997.

Guide to the Donald Torchiana (1923-2001) Papers
Michael A. Napora; Martin Firestein
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US