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Irving Fineman Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MPK
Date: Feb 1979

Biographical History

Irving Fineman (1893-1976) was a Jewish-American novelist and author. Born in New York City, he earned degrees in civil engineering from both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard in 1917. Following a term in the U.S. Navy as an engineer officer (1918-1922), he returned to civil engineering, working in the field designing and constructing bridges, subways, etc and also teaching theoretical and applied mechanics at the University of Illinois. In 1928, taken with the idea of writing a novel, he began work on This Pure Young Man, which won a $7500 prize in 1930. By 1932 he was at work on his second novel and had taken a teaching position at Bennington University in Bennington, Vermont. "It was only when I undertook to teach the subject that with my students I made a thoroughgoing and conscious study of literature and the techniques of writing; but by then I had written two books."

In the late 1930s Fineman spent a year or two in Hollywood writing for several studios, but he found that "while motion picture producers were intrigued by the idea of getting something fresh from a serious writer, they almost invariably got cold feet when it came to putting something unusual or controversial before the cameras." By 1950 he had retired from teaching and other occupations to devote his full attention to writing, though he still took time out for projects that interested him. He served as editorial consultant for the RAND Corporation in 1957 and spent a year as scholar in residence at Duke University (1965-1966).

In addition to seven novels and a biography of Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, Fineman published short stories, poems, and literary criticism in literary and general interest magazines such as Nation, Harper's, Yale Review, New Yorker, New York Times, Saturday Review, and the Los Angeles Times.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Irving Fineman Papers have been arranged into ten series: Clippings, Correspondence, Files, Memorabilia, Miscellaneous printed material, Notes, Writings, Writings – others, Published material, and Writings (unknown)

The collection begins with two boxes of assorted Clippings. Correspondence spans more than sixty years and contains both personal and professional correspondence; correspondents include Anne Walters, Brandeis University, Random House, Frances Frost, and Julia Peterkin.

Files includes medical, legal, and financial material as well as material relating to assorted personal and professional subjects. Memorabilia contains, among other things, calendars and diaries, photographs and scrapbooks, and example of artwork. Miscellaneous printed material consists of books, journals, pamphlets, and magazines, followed by five boxes of miscellaneous Notes.

Writings consists of drafts, galleys, notes, synopses, book covers, and typescripts of novels, plays, poetry, screenplays, and short stories, written by Fineman or by Fineman in collaboration with others. Writings — others and Writings (unknown) is comprised of writings by authors other than Fineman, or writings whose authorship is unknown. Published material contains items by and about Fineman.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is subdivided by type. Files and Memorabilia are arranged alphabetically. Miscellaneous printed material is subdivided by type. The two boxes of Clippings and five boxes of Notes are in no particular order. Fineman's Writings are subdivided by type and then arranged, where appropriate, alphabetically by title; Writings by others and by unknown authors are in no particular order. Published material is subdivided into material by Fineman and material about Fineman.


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. Additional permission may be required for use of Peterkin letters.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has made a concerted effort over the years to ensure that its manuscript and rare books holdings complement each other. As a result, many of our manuscript collections are supported by books, pamphlets, serials and other items which are cataloged in the Rare Books Collection. Please be sure to search the Classic Catalog for these related materials.

Subject Headings


Fineman, Irving, 1893-1976 -- Archives.
Peterkin, Julia Mood, 1880-1961.


American literature -- 20th century.
American literature -- Jewish authors.
Authors, American.
Jews, American.
Novelists, American.

Genres and Forms

Calendars (documents)
Drafts (documents)
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Irving Fineman Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents





Miscellaneous printed material



Writings – others

Published material

Writings (unknown)