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Richard Macksey papers

Identifier: MS-0907

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials gathered during the adult life of Professor Richard Macksey, from his college years at Princeton until a decade before his death in 2019. It includes correspondence with Johns Hopkins University students and faculty, course materials, correspondence with important members of the Post-Structuralist literary movement, and documents showing the functioning of JHU across the decades involved. The oldest item dates to 1653 and the newest to 2009.

The “Author Letters” subseries contains letters from famous and notable authors, mostly from the early 20th century. Some of them were purchased by Macksey, as evidenced by material in the main series and by notes indicating source or cost of the letter. Others were inherited by Macksey from his colleague Elliott Coleman (1906-1980), who helped establish the Writing Center () at Hopkins and maintained professional correspondence with several authors. These letters were kept separate from the main collection by Macksey, who placed them in binders and did not interfile them with his other correspondence. As such, any letters by authors to Macksey that were placed in the main series by him have been left where they were.


  • Creation: 1652 - 2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1953 - 2009


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. This collection may be requested through Special Collections. Some files are Restricted because of the presence of sensitive identification information in them.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Richard Alan Macksey was born on July 25, 1931 in Montclair, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University for part of his undergraduate degree before transferring to Johns Hopkins, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1953. He continued at Hopkins, completing a doctorate in Comparative Literature in 1958. During this time, he briefly worked at what is now Loyola University Baltimore. Upon completion of his doctorate, he took a position as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins in the Writing Seminars, where he remained until his formal retirement in 2010.

Macksey held Hopkins first classes in African-American literature, women’s studies, and publishing. He also expanded into film studies and encouraged the development of Hopkins first television station and programming. In 1966, he was instrumental in founding the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center (currently the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature). He and fellow Hopkins professors Eugenio Donato and Rene Girard hosted a seminal international symposium entitled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man.” At this symposium, many European structuralist critics spoke in the United States for the first time, and Jacques Derrida presented his critique of Structuralism and introduced Post-Structuralism to the intellectual mainstream.

In 1977, Macksey and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor and neurosurgeon George Udvarhelyi founded the School of Medicine’s Office of Cultural Affairs to increase cross-campus interaction between the humanities and medicine. In 1992, he helped to develop a four-year course at the School called “Physician and Society.” Macksey was also the editor of “MLN” (Modern Language Notes), Hopkins journal on European literary criticism for several years.

Able to read and write in six languages, Macksey maintained a depth of correspondence with friends, former students, colleagues, and other professors across North America and Europe. He was also a devoted bibliophile; at the time of his death, it is estimated he had 70,000 books in his home library, which would make it the largest private library in Maryland at that time. He collected rare editions, original manuscripts, and the letters of significant authors.

Richard and Catherine had one child, Alan Macksey, born in 1963. Catherine died in 2000 of cancer. Richard Macksey died on July 22, 2019, of pneumonia at the age of 87.


40 Cubic Feet (approx 40 record cartons--will shrink during processing)

Language of Materials





This collection is made up of the papers, letters, photographs, manuscripts, and other ephemera collected by Professor Richard Macksey (1931-2019), who worked in what is now the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute and The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University from 1958 until his formal retirement in 2010. Because of Macksey’s personal interests and his professional work, the time range of the documents is quite wide. The range goes from 1653 to 2009, with most of the dates clustering around the mid to late 20th century.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was received by Johns Hopkins Special Collections upon Richard Macksey’s death per previous arrangement.



Processing Information

This collection was processed in 2021 by Kathleen Morrison.

Guide to the Richard Macksey Papers
Kathleen Morrison
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA