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Department of Romance Languages records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-080

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Department of Romance Languages consist of Werewolf Legend Reports, graduate student records, and chair correspondence. The entirety of the collection spans from 1902 to 1989.


  • Creation: 1902-1989


Language of Materials

English and French

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

All collections are closed except to office of origin or original owner until processed. University records are closed for 25 years from the point of creation. These files contain student records, which are further subject to FERPA restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Special Collections department. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

The study of romance languages at Hopkins began with the founding of the university in 1876. The original intent was for romance languages to supplement classical studies. Aaron Marshall Elliott was named an Associate in 1876 to teach romance languages and was promoted to full professor in 1892. Elliott received the Ph.D. from Harvard in 1867 and studied in Europe for eight years before returning to assume his position at Hopkins. Since he was the only faculty member at Hopkins in his field, Elliott taught a wide variety of languages, including not only Italian, Spanish and French (old, modern and Provencal), but also Persian as well as numerous dialects.

By 1884 Elliott had established a seminary which would train many prominent romance scholars for American universities. He was also responsible for founding the Modern Language Association of America and its review, Modern Language Notes, which still plays an important part in literary criticism.

Elliott was succeeded in the department by Edward Cooke Armstrong, an 1897 Hopkins Ph.D. in French. Armstrong taught at Hopkins from 1897 to 1917, and chaired the department from 1910 until 1917, when he assumed a professorship at Princeton. Under Armstrong's direction the Romance Journal Club was founded, composed of a group of faculty and students who met weekly and reviewed foreign scientific literature. Armstrong's departure led to a period of disorganization in the department, as other faculty members also left for other institutions. In 1919, Henry Carrington Lancaster, who received his Ph.D. from Hopkins in French in 1907, was named Professor and began to rebuild the department and reinforce the traditional seminary style of education. Although courses were offered in Italian and Spanish, French remained the primary emphasis of the department.

Another period of decline occurred after the Second World War, as a number of notable scholars left Hopkins, including Charles Singleton and George Poulet. Poulet had served as chairman from 1952 to 1954, succeeding Lancaster; when Poulet departed Nathan Edelman was appointed chairman, and once more the rebuilding process began. In 1957 Singleton returned to the department after spending ten years at Harvard. Singleton's presence was to dominate the Romance Languages Department for almost three decades, despite the fact that his primary appointment was in the Humanities Center, which he had founded. Singleton was known as one of the foremost scholars on Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and his scholarship received numerous awards, including the Order of Commendation, the highest honor the Italian government can bestow on a non-Italian.

Singleton was also instrumental in developing the Spellman Villa, in Florence, Italy, as a study facility for Hopkins faculty and graduate students. The building is used as a retreat for Hopkins scholars doing research in Italy. Singleton remained involved in the affairs of the Romance Languages Department until his death in 1985.

During the 1960s and 1970s the department was headed by several chairmen: Rene Girard (ca. 1960-1968), Elias Rivers (1968-1974), Lionel Gossman (1974- 1976), Paul Olson (1976-1981) and Gerard Defaux (1981-1984). In 1984 the Department of Romance Languages was divided into two separate departments, the Department of French (chaired by Defaux), and the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies, under the direction of Harry Sieber.


4.32 Cubic Feet (3 record center cartons, 1 letter size document box, 1 letter half-size document box)


The Records of the Department of Romance Languages contain reports, student records, and correspondence.


The collection has been organized into three series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These volumes were transferred to the Archives by the Special Collections Department of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Processing Information

The collection was initially processed by Scott Tonnenberger and James Stimpert. Subsequent material was processed by Kelly Spring in 2014.

Department of Romance Languages records
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