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Leonard Nathan Papers

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 6 May 2009

Biographical History

Leonard Nathan (1924-2007) was an award-winning American poet, essayist, teacher, and critic.

Born in El Monte, California, he served in the United States Army as a combat engineer in World War II and afterwards attended the University of California Berkely (UCB) on the GI Bill. While at UCB he met his future wife, Carol, and George Hochfield, who became a lifelong friend and colleague. Nathan received his BA (1950) and Master's (1952) in English (1950), followed by a PhD (1961). Shortly thereafter he took a position with UCB's Speech Department, becoming associate professor in 1965 and full professor in 1968. He served as chair of the department from 1968-1972, overseeing the department's changeover to become the Department of Rhetoric. He retired from teaching in 1991 but continued to write, and at the time of his death was engaged in a joint project with Hochfield, a translation of the work of Italian poet Umberto Saba.

Nathan's work was published in national magazines and journals, among them the New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, the Kenyon Review, and the Atlantic; he also published several collections of his poetry. His prose work included Diary of a Left-handed Birdwatcher, and he collaborated on several translations of other poets' works.

Among his honors were the National Institute of Arts and Letters prize for poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Phelan Award for Narrative Poetry, and three silver medals from the Commonwealth Club of California, including one for The Potato Eaters (Orchises Press, 1999).

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from Nathan's obituary in the UC Berkeley News.]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Leonard Nathan Papers consist of correspondence-subject files, memorabilia, printed material, and typescripts. Correspondence-subject files includes substantial correspondence with author Ted Kooser, drafts of Nathan's work, and research material; also included here are 5 boxes of material relating to Nathan's collaboration with George Hochfield on the work of Italian poet Umberto Saba and two boxes relating to translations of Chinese poets. Memorabilia includes a scrapbook and several notebooks. Printed material includes published works by Nathan and a small amount of items by others. Typescripts consists entirely of typescripts of poems, many with Nathan's corrections.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence-subject files have been rearranged into alphabetical order for ease of location. In most cases material remains in the original folders bearing Nathan's original headings; headings added by library staff are enclosed in square brackets [ ]. Printed material and typescripts have been foldered and labeled by library staff and are in no particular order.


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.

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


Hochfield, George.
Kooser, Ted.
Nathan, Leonard, 1924-2007.
Saba, Umberto, 1883-1957.

Associated Titles

Diary of a left-handed birdwatcher.
Ragged sonnets.
Restarting the world.


American poetry -- 20th century.
Chinese poetry -- Translations into English.
College teachers -- Poetry.
Italian poetry -- Translations into English.
Poets, American -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Leonard Nathan Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Leonard Nathan, 1973; George Hochfield, 2009.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files


Printed material