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Marie Borroff papers

Call Number: MS 2097

Content Description

The collection contains research and teaching files, correspondence, poetry, and other writings of Marie Borroff, a professor in the Yale University department of English. A bulk of the material in this collection consists of Borroff's teaching notes and files, particularly on the topic of the Sir Gawain poems, Chaucer, and Middle English. Also included is correspondence with other scholars on topics such as academia, poetry, and translation.

Also included is Borroff's collaboration with Jay (Jack) Rawlins, Borroff's former student, who went on to teach at California's Chico State College. This project, which ran from 1977-1980, had the end goal of writing a textbook on poetry. It was eventually dropped due to incompatible writing styles.

Borroff's experimental computer poetry, part of her Guggenheim Fellowship project, is also represented in the collection. The project involved devising programs for writing poetry by computer, using a vocabulary acquired at random by closing her eyes, opening books of poetry, and putting a finger down on the page to find the next qualified word. Borroff also used a random number generator provided by the Yale Computer Center to write "frames" with blanks that were then filled in with appropriate words. The collection contains the poetry, correspondence that refers to the project, and programming materials.


  • 1883-2019


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult the ordering reproductions information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site. Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright and other associated proprietary rights for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Marie Borroff was transferred to Yale University in 2020. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for Marie Moments Volume II: Summer Scrapbooks by Beatrice Bartlett, Box 26, Folder 25 and other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Steven M. Shepard and Margarett Jolly, 2019.


The papers are arranged in five series: I. Research files, 1920-2018. II. Yale University, 1931-2019. III. Writings, 1916-2012. IV. Correspondence, 1912-2014. V. Family files, 1883-2019.


16.33 Linear Feet (35 containers)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Marie Borroff (1923-2019) was a translator, scholar, poet, and professor at Yale University. The collection contains Borroff's research and teaching files, correspondence, poetry, and other writings, including Borroff's work in computer poetry.

Biographical / Historical

Marie Borroff (1923-2019) was a translator, scholar, poet, and professor at Yale University. Borroff was born in New York City and attended the University of Chicago, where she received both her bachelor and master of arts degrees. She then attended Yale and received a PhD in English literature and philology.

Boroff began her academic career teaching at Smith College, then returned to Yale in 1959. She was the first woman appointed as faculty to the department of English. She gained tenure in 1965, making her the first of two women granted tenure in any department of Yale's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. During this time Borroff also produced critical studies on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and new translations of the Gawain poems. Her translations were printed by the Norton Anthology.

In 1969, Borroff received a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent the year engaged in experimental poetry, particularly "computer poetry." The project was an early use of computer programming to generate poetry. Between 1977 and 1980, Borroff collaborated with Jay Rawlins on a textbook on poetry; it was ultimately not published.

In 1991, Borroff became the first woman to be named Sterling Professor, the highest academic honor awarded at Yale University. She retired from teaching in 1994.

Borroff died on July 5, 2019, at age 95.

Guide to the Marie Borroff Papers
In Progress
compiled by Camila Zorrilla Tessler
March 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
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Sterling Memorial Library
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