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Elaine Feinstein Papers

Date range: 1956-2014

Medium: Archive

Elaine Feinstein is a prolific writer whose work ranges across the genres of poetry, fiction, translation and biography.

Born in Bootle in 1930, she studied English at Cambridge, then trained at the bar, before working as a lecturer and freelance journalist. Feinstein established her literary reputation as a poet with over fifteen published collections; the earliest, In a Green Eye, was published in 1966. She has also written over a dozen novels, many of which manifest a preoccupation with the legacy of the past and the recent history of European Jews.

Feinstein has moved within an eclectic range of literary circles, ranging from the Beats and the Black Mountain poets of America to the literary traditions of Eastern Europe. In particular, her deep regard for the great Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) inspired Feinstein to explore the genres of biography and translation. She has given voice to the lives and works of Tsvetaeva herself, Aleksandr Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova, D. H. Lawrence, and her friend Ted Hughes.

The Library purchased Feinstein’s extensive archive in 2005. It is of major significance across a wide range of disciplines including English, American and Russian literatures, translation studies, drama, biography, film and television studies, art history, gender studies, Jewish history and social history.

The archive contains papers relating to the pre-history of virtually all of Feinstein's published books as well as stage, radio and television plays, from her earliest work to the present, along with reviews of many of them, thus representing the entire process from inception to reception. Material includes working manuscripts, corrected typescripts, annotated proofs, associated correspondence, and cuttings. Work represented includes:

  • Poetry, from her earliest poems to her latest collections published by Manchester-based Carcanet Press, whose archive is also held at the Library and tells the other side of the publication story;
  • Translations, including her celebrated translations of Tsvetaeva. Of particular interest is the use Feinstein made of literal translations by Russian speakers, from which she produced her final 'poetic' translations, a process fully documented in the archive;
  • All of Feinstein's biographies - her life of Ted Hughes being particularly well-represented, including tapes and transcripts of interviews, drafts of the biography, and letters from Hughes's friends, family and lovers;
  • All of Feinstein's novels;
  • Many of her plays for television and radio;
  • Some short stories, book reviews and film treatments.

The archive also includes diaries and journals kept over a long period, and a small quantity of printed material including limited-edition pamphlet publications, and issues of Feinstein's literary magazine Prospect along with other magazines.

Feinstein has a genius for friendship, and the archive contains a wealth of correspondence, dating from the 1950s to the 2000s, with scores of individuals and organizations of national and international importance, including fellow poets, novelists, translators, artists, literary critics, editors, publishers and agents in Britain and the United States.

Notable correspondents include:

  • Brian Aldiss
  • Al Alvarez
  • Martin Amis
  • J. G. Ballard
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Dame Gillian Beer
  • Sir Isaiah Berlin
  • Paul Blackburn
  • Malcolm Bradbury
  • William Burroughs
  • A. S. Byatt
  • Wendy Cope
  • Gregory Corso
  • Donald Davie
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Gavin Ewart
  • Ruth Fainlight
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • Antonia Fraser
  • Allen Ginsberg
  • David Halliwell
  • Maggi Hambling
  • Michael Hamburger
  • Ian Hamilton
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Michael Horovitz
  • dom sylvester houédard
  • Ted Hughes and his sister Olwyn
  • Peter Jay
  • Frank Kermode
  • Denise Levertov
  • Eddie Linden
  • Michael McClure
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Eric Mottram
  • Octavio Paz
  • Harold Pinter
  • J. H. Prynne
  • Anthony Rudolf
  • Peter Sansom
  • Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
  • Michael Schmidt
  • Jon Silkin
  • Alan Sillitoe
  • Jon Stallworthy
  • George Steiner
  • Anne Stevenson
  • Charles Tomlinson
  • Gael Turnbull
  • Daniel Weissbort
  • Fay Weldon
  • Sir Arnold Wesker

See also:

Further information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • See also Stella Halkyard, ‘Archive Corner 11: “Red-gold and Radiant”: Turning the Hermeneutic Circle in the Papers of Elaine Feinstein’, PN Review, vol. 35 no. 2 (Nov/Dec 2008), pp. 12-15, 80.


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