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Thomas Goddard Bergin papers

 Collection
Call Number: MS 1629

Scope and Contents

The papers contain correspondence; lectures; photographs; writings; and administrative, research and subject files documenting the professional life of Thomas Bergin, eminent scholar of Italian literature and authority on Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch. The papers mainly document Bergin's academic career and relate to his involvements with scholars, institutions, and publishers. The papers highlight Bergin's activities to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth and his administrative roles at Yale.

Dates

  • 1930-1974

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for 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

Transferred from Timothy Dwight College, Yale University, 1992.

Arrangement

Arranged in three series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1930-1972. II. Writings, 1937-1974. III. Subject files and photographs, 1952-1971.

Extent

5.77 Linear Feet (13 boxes, 1 envelope)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.1629

Overview

The papers contain correspondence; lectures; photographs; writings; and administrative, research and subject files documenting the professional life of Thomas Bergin, eminent scholar of Italian literature and authority on Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch. The papers mainly document Bergin's academic career and relate to his involvements with scholars, institutions, and publishers. The papers highlight Bergin's activities to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth and his administrative roles at Yale.

Biographical / Historical

Known as "TGB" to most of his students and associates, Thomas Goddard Bergin was an eminent twentieth-century American scholar of Italian literature. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 17, 1904, the only child of Joseph and Irvinea Jane Frances Goddard Bergin. Joseph Bergin had graduated from Yale University in 1896 and received his M.D. there in 1899. Thomas Bergin went to New Haven High School prior to attending Yale, where he received a B.A. in 1925 and a Ph.D. in romance languages in 1929. Bergin married Florence Bullen of Wailasey (Cheshire, England) on December 30, 1929. They had two children, Winifred and Jennifer.

Bergin began his teaching career at Yale College as an instructor of Italian from 1925 until 1930. He taught at Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University from 1930 to 1935 as an associate professor of Spanish and Italian. Bergin then moved to the New York State Teachers College in Albany, where he served, from 1935 until 1941, as a professor of romance languages. From 1941 to 1948, Bergin was at Cornell University as both professor of romance languages and curator of the Fiske Dante-Petrarch Collections. He also served for a time as chairman of the Division of Literature and acting chairman of the Department of English.

In February 1943, Bergin was appointed head instructor at the United States School of Military Government at Charlottesville, Virginia. Between November 1943 and 1946 Major Bergin was assigned to the headquarters of the Allied Control Commission in Italy, where he served as director of public relations. For his wartime service, Bergin was decorated with the Order of Civil Merit and the Orders of Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro and Corona D'Italia from Italy, and the Order of the British Empire.

Bergin became head of the Spanish and Italian Department at Yale in 1949 and was made the Benjamin Barge Professor of the Romance Languages and Literature in the same year. He was master of Timothy Dwight College from 1953 until 1968, except for the year 1956 when Bergin was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy. He was made the Sterling Professor of Romance Languages and Literature in 1957 and upon retirement in July 1973, became Sterling Professor Emeritus. Memoirs related to his Yale years appear as a chapter entitled "My Native Country" in My Harvard, My Yale (1982), edited by Diana Dubois.

Bergin was an authority on Boccacciot Dantet Petrarch, and the Provenyal troubadours. He also specialized in the study of more modern Italian writers, especially Alberto Moravi, Quasimodo Salvatoret Giovanni Verga, and Giambattista Vico. Besides textbooks and scholarly monographs on French, Italian, Spanish, and Provenyal subjects, including three one-volume Syntheses on Boccacciot Dantet and Petrarch, Bergin published biographies of Italian writers and poets, in English and Italian, and edited The Taming of the Shrew for the Yale Shakespeare series (1954). He also produced translations of several prominent Italian writers and poets, most notably Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno (1948), Paradise (1954), and Purgatory (1953). Other notable translations include Niccolo Machiavelli's Prince (1947) and Vico's New Science (1948; rev. ed. 1961) with Max Fisch. Bergin compiled, with Ernest H. Wilkins, the indispensable Concordance to the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1965) for the Dante Society of America. He was also a poet in his own right; some of his poems were collected and edited by A. Bartlett Giamatti and T. K. Swing in Masterpieces From the Files of T.G.B. (1964). Bergin also wrote many articles and book reviews for such publications as Colliers Encyclopedia, The Freeman, the Italian Quarterly, Italica, the New York Times, the Romantic Review, the Virginia Quarterly and the Yale Review. He created the Dante Shelf for Italian Quarterly to review new material on Dante. The bibliography of his works in Italian Literature: Roots and Branches. Essays in Honor of Thomas Goddard Bergin, edited by Giose Rimanelli and Kenneth J. Atchity (1976), includes thirty-seven books, fifteen contributions to books, fifty articles in periodicals, and nearly 500 book reviews.

Bergin played an extremely active part in the 1965 septicentennial celebrations of Dante's birth. He organized a Dante conference at Yale and edited the conference papers, which were published as From Time to Eternity. He also lectured widely during the course of the year long observance.

Bergin was also a Yale historian, author of a history of the residential colleges, and a football enthusiast who vigorously promoted the Yale football team for some twenty years. In "Time and Change," his column for the Yale Alumni Magazine, Bergin addressed many areas of Yale life and history and chronicled the fortunes of the Yale team. He also wrote Gridiron Glory (1978), recounting the fortunes of the Yale football team from 1952 to 1972 and a history of the Harvard Yale football confrontation called The Game: the Harvard-Yale Football Rivalry, 1875-1983 (1984).

Bergin belonged to the American Association of Teachers of Italian (serving as its president in 1947), the Medieval Academy of America, the Dante Society of America, the American Association of University Professors (he was the president of the Yale chapter from 1951 to 1952), and PEN, the international organization of poets, essayists, and novelists. He received honorary degrees from Hofstra College in 1958 and the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1984.

Bergin died on October 30, 1987, at the age of eighty-two, at his home in Madison, Connecticut. Yale honored him posthumously by establishing the Thomas Bergin scholarships for Italian majors in 1989. Timothy Dwight College, furthermore, renamed its dining room in his honor.
Title
Guide to the Thomas Goddard Bergin Papers
Author
compiled by James E. F. Viner and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
Date
July 2008
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • April 2012: Finding aid revision description not supplied.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)