Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Rudikoff, Sonya, 1927-
Sonya Rudikoff Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
7 boxes and 7.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 2-7


Sonya Rudikoff (1927-1997) was a writer, literary critic, and independent scholar, active from the 1950s through the 1990s, who wrote primarily on Victorian literature, feminism, and Virginia Woolf. The papers include Rudikoff's professional and personal correspondence, including five decades of extensive correspondence from second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler; typescripts of Rudikoff's unpublished fiction and lectures; notebooks, papers, and diaries from her time at Bennington College in the late 1940s; along with a curriculum vitae and bibliography of her work and some related materials.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The papers include writer and literary critic Sonya Rudikoff's professional and personal correspondence from the 1950s through the 1990s, along with notebooks, academic papers, and diaries from her time at Bennington College in the 1940s, typescripts of unpublished fiction and lectures, a curriculum vitae and bibliography of her work, and a small selection of her husband's correspondence after her death.

Most notable within the correspondence files are five decades of regular correspondence from second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) to Sonya Rudikoff. Frankenthaler and Rudikoff met at Bennington College in the late 1940s, where they both studied art with Paul Feeley, and later lived together in New York City in 1950, following graduation. Correspondence from Frankenthaler includes over five hunded letters and postcards, regarding Frankenthaler's artwork and art shows, as well as the artwork of her husband Robert Motherwell, a prominent first-generation Abstract Expressionist. Correspondence contains lengthy descriptions of Frankenthaler's thoughts about her work process and the evolution of her painting over time, as well as her opinions on contemporary and past art movements, family and health-related issues, personal relationships, travel, contemporary culture, and international political issues. Also present are a few letters from Robert Motherwell and his daughters addressed to Rudikoff, along with a group of invitations and exhibition catalogs related to Franklenthaler's art events and parties.

Other correspondence reflects Rudikoff's professional work as an editor, literary and art critic, and contributor to The Hudson Review and other periodicals, as a published writer and independent scholar on many topics, including Victorian literature, modernism, and feminism, and as a judge for various literary awards. Personal correspondence includes several decades of letters between Rudikoff and her husband, Robert Gutman, along with Gutman's correspondence regarding the posthumous publication of Rudikoff's book, Ancestral Houses: Virginia Woolf and the Aristocracy (Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, 1999), and condolence letters following her death. Materials from Rudikoff's time at Bennington College from 1945 to 1948 demonstrate her artistic abilities and early interest in modernist women writers, while diaries and planners provide a general view of the life of a young female college student in the late 1940s. Typescripts of various fiction writings, along with lectures and papers presented at academic conferences are also present, including drafts of several lectures on Virginia Woolf and her circle, as well as a full typescript of an unpublished novel about a female Abstract Expressionist painter living in New York City in the late 1940s and early 1950s.


The papers are arranged into four series, following their original groupings: Series 1: Helen Frankenthaler Correspondence, Series 2: General Correspondence, Series 3: Bennington College Papers, and Series 4: Writings and Lectures.

Collection Creator Biography:

Rudikoff, Sonya, 1927-

Sonya Rudikoff (1927-1997) was a writer, literary critic, and independent scholar of Victorian literature, active from the 1950s through the 1990s. After studying at the Walden School and the High School of Music and Art in New York City, she attended Bennington College in Vermont from 1945 to 1948, where she met the Abstract Expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), with whom she maintained a close friendship and corresponded regularly for the rest of her life. After graduating from Bennington, Rudikoff and Frankenthaler shared a New York City apartment, where Frankenthaler introduced Rudikoff to Robert Gutman (1926-2007), later a professor of sociology and architecture, whom she married in 1950. After spending time in New Hampshire and Europe in the early 1950s, Rudikoff and Gutman settled down in Princeton, New Jersey, where Gutman taught and lectured at Princeton University in the School of Architecture from 1969 until his retirement, in addition to his position on the sociology faculty at Rutgers University from 1957 to 1996. While Rudikoff was also known as Sonya Rudikoff Gutman following her marriage, she continued be known professionally as Sonya Rudikoff.

For twenty years, Rudikoff served as an advisory editor for The Hudson Review, where she regularly contributed book reviews, arts reviews, and criticism on topics including Victorian and modernist literature and art, psychoanalysis, and feminism. She also frequently published articles and essays in The American Scholar, Commentary, The New Criterion, The Partisan Review, and several other periodicals throughout her career. She received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for creative writing in 1957 and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1980 to pursue scholarship on women writers. Rudikoff was also a judge for the National Book Award in 1977 and The Hudson Review's Bennett Award in 1986. An independent Virginia Woolf scholar, Rudikoff was also active member of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association and author of the book Ancestral Houses: Virginia Woolf and the Aristocracy, which was completed in 1993 and posthumously published in 1999 after Rudikoff died tragically in a house fire in 1997.

Collection History


Gift of John Gutman '83 and Elizabeth C. Gutman '85 in 2014 (AM 2015-40, AM 2015-46).


Nothing was removed from the collection during 2014 processing.

Processing Information

Some of the papers exhibit soot stains around the edges and other minor fire damage from a 1997 fire at the Gutman home, although their legibility is not compromised.

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in December 2014. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in December 2014.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research/

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Sonya Rudikoff Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 2-7