J. H. Matthews:
An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
John Herbert Matthews was born on September 11, 1930, in Swansea, Wales, to John Oswald Matthews and the former Elizabeth Mabel Morgan. He earned a degree in French from the University of Wales in 1951 and completed a doctoral degree at the University of Montpellier in 1955. He married Jeanne Brooks on July 23, 1955, and they had three children.
In 1956, Matthews accepted an appointment as an assistant lecturer in French at the University of Exeter and the following year became a lecturer at the University of Leicester. He then moved to the United States in 1963 to serve as a professor of romance languages at the University of Minnesota. In 1965, he became a professor of French at Syracuse University, a position he held until his death.
Matthews was a prolific author, and most of his twenty-five books and numerous articles focus on surrealism and its manifestations in literature and the visual arts. His first book on surrealism was An Introduction to Surrealism (1965). In the 1970s, he began to further investigate surrealism in painting, photography, and film, producing works such as The Imagery of Surrealism (1977), Surrealism and American Feature Films (1979), and Eight Painters: The Surrealist Context (1982). In 1971, Matthews was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in university criticism for his book Surrealism and Film. He also edited two anthologies of surrealist works, An Anthology of French Surrealist Poetry (1966) and The Custom House of Desire: A Half-Century of Surrealist Short Stories (1975). Matthews often chose to study lesser-known surrealist authors and artists, including Joyce Mansour, Benjamin Péret, and Jehan Mayoux. In addition to his work on surrealism, he published works about Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and other nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors. In recognition of his distinguished record of scholarly research and publication, the University of Wales conferred upon him a Doctor of Letters degree in 1977.
During his time at the University of Minnesota, Matthews served as an associate editor of Symposium, a journal in modern languages. He became editor of the journal in 1965 and held this position until his death.
Matthews died on February 8, 1987, in Lake Placid, New York. His final published work was The Surrealist Mind, which appeared posthumously in 1991.
The papers of J. H. Matthews consist of correspondence, typescripts, notes, clippings, printed materials, visual materials, and published works that document Matthews’ research, publications, and academic career from 1950 to 1987. The papers are arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1962-1987; II. Works, 1957-1986; III. Research Materials, 1955-1986; IV. Teaching and Related Materials, 1955-1986; and V. Works by Others, 1950-1987.
Series I., Correspondence, consists primarily of letters Matthews received from European and North American surrealist artists and authors, as well as scholars, curators, and publishers. The letters from artists and authors often address their work and personal affairs, describe happenings in surrealist circles, and provide commentary on Matthews’ publications. The correspondence is primarily in English and French, but there are also several letters in Spanish and Italian. A limited number of copies of letters written by Matthews is included in the collection. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent last name.
The Matthews Papers include correspondence of a significant amount or nature from the following individuals: Karol Baron, J. Karl Bogartte, Vincent and Micheline Bounoure, Ian Breakwell, Arnost Budik, Michael Bullock, Nicolas Calas, Mário Cesariny, Alfred Charley, Guy and Rikki Ducornet, John Schlechter Duvall, Peter Fingesten, Richard Genovese (later name Richard Misiano-Genovese), Eugenio Fernández Granell, Paul Hammond, Jim Harter, Edouard Jaguer, Ted Joans, Sérgio Lima, John Lyle, Conroy Maddox, Joyce Mansour, Renzo Margonari, Marcel Mariën, Jehan Mayoux, Stephen Robeson Miller, José Pierre, Tony Pusey, Franklin Rosemont, Guy Rosey, Nathalie Sarraute, Stephen Schwartz, Mariarosa Sclauzero, Larry R. Smith, Philippe Soupault, Jan Švankmajer, Philip West, and Jon Manchip White. Some correspondence is located in other series, including letters from Rikki Ducornet (folder 6.4), Joyce Mansour (folder 7.3), and Nathalie Sarraute (folder 11.5).
The collection also contains a small number of letters, often brief or routine in nature, that Matthews received from the following individuals: Marguerite Arp, Jean-Louis Bédouin, Anthony Earnshaw, Gordon Onslow Ford, Wilhelm Freddie, Paul Garon, Jon Graham, Maurice Henry, Alain Joubert, Philip Lamantia, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Hans Henrik Lerfeldt, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Schuster, Georges Sebbag, Jean-Claude Silbermann, Henri Storck, and Marianne van Hirtum.
The bulk of Series II., Works, consists of typescripts of Matthews’ books, articles, reviews, and lectures. Also included is correspondence with authors, artists, and publishers related to Matthews’ publications, often regarding use permissions and editorial questions. This series also contains original artwork and photographs that Matthews selected to illustrate his works. The material in this series is arranged alphabetically by title of the work.
Undated handwritten notes, outlines, and clippings comprise the bulk of Series III., Research Materials, and Series IV., Teaching and Related Materials. Also included in the teaching materials are course syllabi, course assignments, and slides, as well as documents related to Matthews’ committee and editorial work at Syracuse University. The research and teaching materials are arranged alphabetically by subject, according to Matthews’ own folder titles wherever possible.
Series V., Works by Others, is composed of scholarly articles, surrealist tracts and publications, and visual materials. The scholarly articles are primarily offprints from academic journals in literature, language, and the visual arts, and are often autographed by the author with a note to Matthews. The surrealist publications include tracts, pamphlets, and posters from North America and Europe, in English and French. The visual materials consist of photographs, film stills, slides, and negatives of works by surrealist and other artists, as well as a limited number of original drawings.
Open for research
Purchase, 1989 (R11768), Gift, 1995 (G10329)
Shelley Rowland, 2009