Scope and Content Note

The Michael D. Bell Papers, 1962-1997, contain papers documenting his professional life as an academic, both as an educator and a scholar, and include a few personal items in the form of a scrapbook from the last year before his death, when he was on medical leave from the College. Bell was interested in Modern British literature, especially fiction, eighteenth through twentieth centuries, American literature, and American Studies. The collection provides an opportunity to gain insight into Bell?s pedagogical paradigm, and the way he approached literary genres and their relation to literary vocation in American culture and society. The collection comprises papers relating to pieces he authored, published or presented, as well as a sizable compilation of lectures from courses he taught while at Harvard and Williams. His years at Princeton, however, are noticeably absent. The Collection has been arranged into five series: I. Education and Early Career, II. Williams Teaching, III. Scholarship, IV. Journals, and V. Personal and Professional.

Where possible, the organization Bell created for his papers has been maintained. His folder titles have also been retained, and any comments or categorizations not included in the original labels have been enclosed in square brackets. Bell was inconsistent in how he labeled his files. At times, he was quite general and not particularly concerned at maintaining the integrity of a folder (i.e. a file folder labeled ?English 216 ? past classes? had lectures and syllabi from English 208 instead), and at other times, he was most precise, specifying a single lecture from a course as the contents of a folder.

Series I. Education And Early Career comprises papers pertaining to the work he did while a student and materials from courses he taught before he came to Williams. These papers include written work from his time as an undergraduate at Yale and a graduate student at Harvard, in addition to transcripts from both his undergraduate and graduate careers. This series also comprises notebooks he kept for English courses he both took and taught while at Harvard, papers (both his own and his students?), class roll and grade books, and what appears to be a notebook of notes for an American Civilization course he might have taught while a professor at Princeton. This series presents correspondence, essays and a journal before listing course material by course number.

Series II. Williams Teaching is a collection of syllabi, exams, notes, and lectures for the courses he taught during his tenure at Williams. (Also included are two classes he taught while a visiting professor at Columbia University during this period.) This series has been organized by course, starting with American Civilization (later known as American Studies) followed by English. Within each discipline, course material is organized by course number and then chronologically. The courses he taught that are documented in this collection also include several courses he team taught with Professor Robert Dalzell from the History/American Civilization department and Professors Steve Fix and Larry Graver from the English department. Bell also collected other professors? lecture notes and syllabi for the same courses he taught.

Series III. Scholarship is a broad category that encompasses the professional and academic work he did outside of his teaching. It is subdivided into five sub-series: Books, Contributions and Edited Volumes, Articles, Reviews, and Presentations. These sub-series comprise correspondence and materials relating to books he published, edited or contributed to, articles he published in academic journals, papers he presented, lectures he gave, book reviews he wrote, manuscript reviews he made for various publishers, and projects he worked on, such as the televised version of Nathaniel Hawthorne?s The Scarlet Letter. Within the Contributions and Edited Volumes sub-series, Bell had inserted his own dividers separating one group of folders related to his work on the Cambridge History of American Literature. These dividers have been included.

Series IV. Journals is a series of journals and notebooks he kept noting responses to and notes on reading he did. It is subdivided into two sub-series: Numbered Journals, and Alphabetical Journals. Bell himself created a series of numbered journals of abstracts he created for various works of literature and criticism he read. These he numbered and labeled. However, there were several other journals on various materials he?d read that were not similarly titled or labeled but were similar in content, and for simplicity?s sake, have been organized alphabetically. With regards to all of these journals, it is unclear what they were used for, whether they were simply for his own personal enrichment, research for papers he was working on, or as material for his classes. Thus, due to their somewhat ambiguous and elusive nature, they have not been placed under either the scholarship or teaching categories. Some anomalies in this series are Journals A120, 124, and 126, which are absent, and A127, which has two journals labeled under that number with distinctly different contents.

Series IV. Personal and Professional covers manuscripts and drafts from a set of memoirs he was working on called Lies About Cancer. There is also a scrapbook/binder he kept of emails from family and friends, postcards, flyers, and other sundry items from his last year. Also covered in this category are administrative materials from his work on the Committee on Academic Computing (CAC), and grant proposals he created.

Michael Davitt Bell (1941-1997) Papers, 1962-1997

Biographical Note
Scope and Content Note
Series List