Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Archive Opens

Stay tuned for more about this unique digital collection. The UC Irvine Critical Theory Archive also has the laptop of Stanley Fish, along with born digital materials from Rorty that are now available to researchers who have gained permission for online access.

*Richard Rorty Papers Open for Research at the UC Irvine Libraries*

The papers of the late philosopher Richard Rorty, whom the New York Times called "one of the world’s most influential contemporary thinkers," are now available to researchers at the UC Irvine Libraries, Department of Special Collections and Archives. Rorty was a controversial figure in philosophy, advancing a distinctive form of pragmatism that emphasized the historical contingency of the discipline. Displaying a remarkably broad intellectual range, Rorty's work was influential in fields from literary theory to political science and history. He ended his career in the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University.

The Richard Rorty Papers are unique among scholarly manuscript collections at UC Irvine and elsewhere, given that they include not only paper manuscripts, but also more than 1,000 digital word-processing files recovered from Rorty's floppy disks. Among the digital files, researchers will find scholarly manuscripts, letters, essays, speeches and lectures that reflect not only Rorty's intellectual development, but also his insights into political issues and world events. The topics he addressed include the labor movement in the U.S., the foreign and
domestic policies of the Clinton administration, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These digital manuscripts, converted to pdf format for preservation, are available to researchers through the website UCIspace @ the Libraries (

The digital files complement the collection's 60 boxes of materials in paper form, which include handwritten and typed manuscripts covering a nearly 50-year span from Rorty's graduate school days through the end of the century. Rorty died in 2007 at the age of 75. Included in the paper files are thousands of letters to and from friends and colleagues such as scholars Barry Allen, Annette Baier, Richard Bernstein, Robert Brandom, Hubert Dreyfus, Milton Fisk, Raymond Geuss, Katherine Kearns, Bruce Kuklick, Juergen Habermas, Ian Hacking, Maurice Mandelbaum, Gerald J. Massey, Alexander Nehamas, Jacques Poulain, J.B. Schneewind, Quentin Skinner, and Gregory Vlastos. Among the public figures represented are judge and legal scholar Richard Posner and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

The collection also includes letters and writings dating to Rorty's youth. After he left his home in New Jersey to attend the University of Chicago just before his 15th birthday, he wrote many letters to his parents, both of whom were writers and activists. These and the return correspondence are included in the collection.

Given Rorty's considerable engagement with literary and critical theorists such as Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish, Rorty donated his papers to the UC Irvine Libraries' Critical Theory Archive in 2006. The Archive also holds the papers of Derrida, Fish, and Paul de Man, among others.

The Richard Rorty Papers are available to researchers in the reading room at the Department of Special Collections and Archives at UC Irvine Libraries. A guide to the collection is available online at



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