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Thomas J. Altizer Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Altizer, Thomas J. J.
Title: Thomas J. Altizer Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1958-1971
Quantity: 3 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the American theologian. Born 1927. Correspondence (1960-1970); typescript books and page proofs; published articles and essays; and three audio tapes. Much of the correspondence pertains to the 'Death of God' movement of the 1960s, of which Altizer was a leader.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Thomas J. Altizer is a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studied at the University of Chicago, from which he received the degrees of A.B., A.M., and Ph.D. in 1955 with a dissertation on Greek and Eastern religious philosophy. He taught at Wabash College from 1954-1956, then became Associate Professor of Bible and Religion at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, where he became one of the leaders of the "Death of God" movement in the mid-1960s. While teaching at Emory, Altizer's religious views were featured in two Time magazine articles in 1965 and 1966. The latter issue was published at Easter, and its cover asked in bold red letters on a plain black background, "Is God Dead?" Despite the appearance of atheism, Altizer is more correctly described as a radical theologian; God's "death" was simply a self-extinction that resulted from the completion of His plans, beginning at the Creation and culminating in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Altizer's theology generated a great deal of heated debate and in 1968 Altizer left Emory and joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, as a professor in the English Department. He eventually retired to Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania and wrote a memoir, Living the Death of God.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Thomas J. Altizer Papers are arranged in four series. Audiotape recordings consists of three tapes with recordings of appearances at colleges and on radio programs. Correspondence primarily consists of responses to Altizer's "Death of God" theology and represents a wide variety of opinions from grade school children to learned theologians. Printed material includes essays and miscellany, while Writings contains books, essays and magazine articles by Altizer.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Audiotape recordingsare arranged alphabetically. Correspondence is arranged chronologically, apart from his correspondence with publishers and with Stony Brook; these two appear at the end. Printed material is arranged chronologically. Writings is arranged alphabetically by type (books, essays, magazine articles); books and essays are arranged chronologically by title while magazine articles are arranged chronologically by date of publication.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Altizer, Thomas J. J.


Death of God theology.
Theologians -- United States.
Theology -- History -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms




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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Thomas J. Altizer Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: DMB
Date: 20 Nov 1978
Revision history: 12 Apr 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 4 Aug 2015 - media added/updated (MRC)

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Audio recording tapes
Box 1 Altizer Tape #8 Danforth 1966 (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_001)
Box 1 CBS Does Altizer 14 May 1966 (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_002)
Box 1 Altizer 29 April 1966 St. Andrews College Laurinburg, N.C. 29 Apr 1966 (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_003)
Box 1 [unidentified reel] (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_004)
Box 1 Vanderbilt (1) 265 Question (1) Oct 1966 (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_005)
Box 1 I’ve Got A Question Dr. Thomas J. Altizer 4 Mar 1967 (1 reel tape) (ID#: altizer_tj_006)
Box 1 1960-1964
Box 1 1965 (6 folders)
Box 1, 2 1966 (13 folders)
Box 2 1967 (3 folders)
Box 2 1968 (2 folders)
Box 2 1969-1971 (3 folders)
Box 2 Publishers 1967-1970
Box 2 Stony Brook 1967-1970
Box 2 Telegram undated
Box 3 Undated
Printed material
Box 3 Essays
Box 3 Miscellaneous 1965-1970 (2 folders)
Box 3 The Descent into Hell 1970 - Page proofs, review by John Cobb, Jr., typescript (copy)
Box 3 The Gospel of Christian Atheism 1970 - Typescript (copy)
Box 4 Mircea Eliade and the Dialectic of the Sacred ca. 1963 - Pub. mat. (1 volume)
Box 4 Oriental Mysticism and Biblical Eschatology ca. 1961 - Pub. mat. (1 volume)
Box 4 Essays (2 folders)
Box 4 Magazine articles 1958/1968

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