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Collection Overview

Princeton University. Graduate School
Gauss Seminars in Criticism Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
5 boxes
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-5


Named in honor of Christian Gauss (1878-1951), one of Woodrow Wilson's original preceptors and dean of the college from 1925 to 1946, the Gauss Seminars in Criticism were conceived in 1949 by Richard P. Blackmur (1904-1965). One of America's foremost literary critics–and one of Princeton's most distinguished professors of English–Blackmur sought to stimulate discussion and the exchange of ideas in the humanities through presentations from scholars, artists, critics, and writers. The collection is composed of correspondence with guest speakers.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection is composed of correspondence with the guest speakers. Most folders contain a letter of invitation to speak at the Gauss Seminars, correspondence concerning presentation dates, lodging, and material for distribution during the presentation. Other items include payment for lectures and correspondence requesting additional lecture dates at other institutions during the speaker's stay in the United States.

The final folder contains material from a symposium on the subject of Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus. Symposium speakers, all of whom taught at Princeton at various times, were E.B.O. Borgerhoff (Romance Languages and Literatures); Francis Fergusson, (Comparative Literature); Erich Kahler (Germanic Languages and Literatures); Edmund King (Romance Langauges and Literatures); David Sachs (Philosophy); and Joseph Kerman (Music).


Organized into the following series:

The collection is arranged in alphabetical order by the last name of the lecturer. Box 1, Folder 1 contains an index with each lecturer's name and topic of discussion. Topics are varied and cover many different subjects in the humanities such as metaphysics, political thought, and existential theme. Other topics examine a specific genre such as poetry, romanticism, and science fiction.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton University. Graduate School

The earliest form of organized graduate education at Princeton began when President James Carnahan announced the establishment of a Law School in 1846, which awarded its last degree in 1852. Graduate work in a formal sense emerged at Princeton in the 1870s when President James McCosh added new faculty and graduate fellowships. The introduction of graduate work in the sciences came with the opening of the John C. Green School of Science in 1873, offering both masters and doctoral degrees.

Princeton's Graduate School, established officially by the Trustees in late 1900, began its operations in the fall of 1901. The School's first dean, Andrew Fleming West, sought to improve the quality of education by insisting on high entrance and academic standards and by creating what he believed to be the proper residential setting, a Graduate College, where the students would learn from one another. Merwick, located on Bayard Lane and provided by benefactor Moses Taylor Pyne in 1905, served as the first residence for graduate students. It housed twelve to fifteen students and served as a dining facility and center of recreation.

Upon her death in 1906, Josephine Thomson Swann, the first benefactor of the Graduate School, bequeathed $275,000 to Princeton for the construction of a Graduate College in her late husband's name. This money allowed Dean West and President Woodrow Wilson to formulate plans for the Graduate School, but controversy came with the building of the Graduate College, which would replace Merwick as a residence for students. West proposed that the College be remotely located, away from the distractions of undergraduate life, while Wilson favored a site near Prospect House. William Cooper Procter, Class of 1883, who contributed funds for what would become Procter Hall, strongly campaigned for the site near the golf links. He offered $500,000 toward the Graduate College, but found Wilson's choice for the site unsuitable and made his offer conditional "upon further understanding that some other site be chosen, which shall be satisfactory to me." Wilson refused to accept a gift upon such terms, and held tightly to his belief that West could not succeed in his plan to locate the Graduate College at the golf links, away from the "existing life of the University." Although Wilson had the support of the faculty and a majority of the trustees, Procter still insisted on his conditions.

After weighing the options, Howard Crosby Butler, the first Master-in-Residence of the Graduate College, agreed with West that a Graduate College apart from the undergraduates was wise based on his "practical experience with the group of graduate students at Merwick." Isaac Chauncey Wyman, Class of 1848, who came to side with Dean West and William Cooper Procter, left the bulk of his estate, initially estimated at two million dollars, to the Graduate College, and it was this that ultimately settled the question of its location. In his report to the trustees, Wilson finally accepted West's plan for the location and acceded to Procter's conditions. Once the site controversy was settled, architect Ralph Adams Cram, the "high priest" of American Collegiate Gothic, designed the College as a complex consisting of a quadrangle, the Pyne Memorial Tower for the residence of the Master of the College, and the great hall, Procter Hall, which became known for its stained glass windows, carved timber ceiling, and pipe organ. A "collegiate" lifestyle developed at the Graduate College, with recreation, lectures, and meals together in Procter Hall. The Graduate College provided graduate students with a communal life outside of the classrooms and laboratories.

World War I radically changed the character of the nascent Graduate School as students left for war service, and the Graduate College was leased to the military for training naval officers. Until 1922, the Graduate School had limited its enrollment to 200 degree candidates. Several departments, such as history, English, and chemistry, felt increased pressure to admit students beyond the 1922 quotas. By 1932, under Dean Augustus Trowbridge (1928-1933), enrollment was raised to 250, but it was not until the administration of Dean Hugh Stott Taylor (1945-1958), that the upper limit was finally removed. With increased research funds in math and sciences came assistantships for students. By World War II, Dean Luther Eisenhart (1933-1945), who had come on board during the Depression, had given the Graduate School a new sense of mission and increased claim to excellence. He changed doctoral regulations, redefined master's degrees, and created scholarships.

As World War II wound down and enrollment began strongly increasing again, the Graduate School faced a housing crisis, especially for married students. Married veterans and their families moved into what were at one time army barracks, the Butler Apartments, on Harrison Street. The shape of graduate education in the postwar years became a major interest, and Dean Taylor oversaw the postwar expansion of the Graduate School. He added new doctoral programs and brought alumni more fully into the University family through the creation of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni. The establishment of the Forrestal Campus in 1951, which included the Plasma Physics Laboratory and a particle accelerator, helped cement Princeton's reputation as a world-class institution in the study of physics

Under Dean Donald Hamilton (1958-1965), the enrollment of the Graduate School continued to increase steadily. The fellowship budget grew, as did the number of interdisciplinary programs. Princeton admitted its first woman graduate student as a special case in 1961, and in 1968 the Graduate School's doors were officially opened to women. Throughout the 1960s, the recruitment of minorities, especially African Americans, grew. Toward the end of the 1960s, with the global political climate changing, Princeton, like other graduate schools, felt increasing pressure to admit more students from other nations.

After weathering Vietnam War protests in the 1970s, the Graduate School faced further problems with funding, particularly in the humanities. Budget cuts served to reshape the Graduate School's demography, financing, programs, and morale through to the early 1990s. Steady growth throughout the latter part of the decade, however, can be attributed to doctoral students remaining enrolled in extended programs in order to conduct sophisticated research, acquire foreign languages and study in foreign countries, among other things. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Graduate School saw more specialties in academic departments and the establishment of focused research institutes and centers, as well as a strong exchange program with peer institutions.

Collection History

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Carol Burke in January 2003. Finding aid written by Carol Burke in January 2003.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Gauss Seminars in Criticism Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-5