Joanna Russ papers , 1907-2014

Overview of the Collection

Russ, Joanna, 1937-2011
Joanna Russ papers
1907-2014 (inclusive)
1953-2011 (bulk)
17.75 linear feet, (40 containers)  :  36 manuscript boxes, 3 half manuscript boxes, 1 oversize folder
Collection Number
Coll 261
Joanna Russ (1937-2011) was a feminist, educator, author and literary critic. The collection includes correspondence, literary manuscripts, books, press clippings, and photographs.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Joanna Russ, feminist, educator, author and literary critic was born February 22, 1937 in New York City. Encouraged by her parents, especially her mother whose love of literature she credits "as one of the things that drew her to literature with a female point of view," Russ began writing when she was five years old. She graduated from Cornell University in 1957, and received an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama in 1960. Her teaching career began at Queensborough Community College in New York; she has also taught literature and writing at Cornell and the State University of New York at Binghamton and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1977, she joined the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, retiring in 1990 as a full professor.

Her short stories, novels and essays examine the limitations of late 20th century gender roles on the lives of women and posit the possibilities for women outside these constructions. Her fiction is categorized within science fiction, a genre that, over its history, devolved the constraints of the western cultural literary traditions by shaping alternative realities for humanity. The profound change that Russ and her contemporaries introduced in the 1960s and 70s is the positioning of the female protagonist as a complete individual, capable of all constructive and destructive activities, entirely outside of any relationship with the male identity of western myths. The male is no longer the absolute owner of all real activity. "These are not stories about men qua Man and women qua Woman; they are myths of human intelligence and human adaptability. They not only ignore gender roles but--at least theoretically--are not culture bound." These explorations into the speculative nature of women's reality place her work in a subsection of science fiction along with the work of Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler. In a 1984 interview, Russ said, "Science fiction is a natural, in a way, for any kind of radical thought. Because it is about things that have not happened and do not happen. It is very fruitful if you want to present the concerns of any marginal group, because you are doing it in a world where things are different."

Russ' fury at what happens in the world humans actually inhabit, what continues to happen, drives her creations. Joanna Russ has been a voice of angry, insulted women since her first short story was published in 1959. "But holy peanut butter, dear writer," James Tiptree, Jr. wrote to Russ in 1973, "do you imagine that anyone with half a functional neuron can read your work and not have his fingers smoked by the bitter, multi-layered anger in it? àIt smells and smoulders like a volcano buried so long and deadly it is just beginning to wonder if it can explode."

Russ won many awards including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 1974-75. She won the Nebula, science fiction's prestigious award, for her short story "When It Changed" and the Hugo in 1983 for Souls, a novella. She was also awarded the Pilgrim Award in 1988 for her criticism of works in the science fiction genre.

Russ died on April 29, 2011 in Tucson, AZ.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Joanna Russ papers contain the following series: correspondence, fiction, non-fiction and academic work, Kirk/Spock fan fiction study and writing, and personal materials.

Series 1: Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of the correspondent and includes general correspondence between Russ and other authors, theorists, and professional contacts. This series include both personal and professional correspondence and some of the noteworthy and most extensive files include correspondence with Suzy McKee Charnas, Samuel R. Delany, Ellen Levine Literary Agency (her literary agent), Syn Ferguson, Marilyn Hacker, Susan Koppelman, Vonda McIntyre, Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.) and her mother Bertha Russ. This series also includes fan mail and correspondence related to Russ's Kirk/Spock fan fiction writings, organized alphabetically by name.

Series 2: Fiction is arranged alphabetically by title of work and sub-series are organized by genre: novels, short fiction (including poetry), and plays. Materials in this series include original manuscripts for published and unpublished works, printed books, and professional correspondence related to publication and marketing.

Series 3: Non-fiction and academic work is arranged alphabetically by title of work and sub-series are organized by genre: books and collected works, essays and journal articles, lectures and speeches, magazine and newspaper articles, research materials and notes, and reviews and commentary. Materials in this series include original manuscripts for published and unpublished works, annotated photocopies, printed books and journals, newspaper clippings, literary letters and commentary, and professional correspondence related to publication. Research material and notes includes copies of science-fiction works written by other authors (including Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., H.G. Wells, and Samuel R. Delany) that are extensively annotated by Russ. Reviews and commentary includes manuscripts for book reviews, many of which were published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Series 4: Kirk/Spock fan fiction study and writing is arranged alphabetically by title. Materials include academic essays and original fan fiction manuscripts published in zines under the pseudonym Janet Alex.

Series 5: Personal materials includes academic credentials and letters of recommendation, interviews and oral histories, legal and financial files including publication royalties and copyright registration, photographs and personal ephemera, and press clippings.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • American fiction--Women authors
  • American literature--20th century
  • Feminism and literature
  • Feminism--United States
  • Feminist fiction, American--Authorship
  • Feminists--United States--Correspondence
  • Science fiction, American--Authorship
  • Sex role--Fiction
  • Women and literature
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Correspondence

Form or Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts for publication