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Manuscript Collection

Constance Urdang, 1922-1996. American Author.

Constance Urdang

Finding Aid for the Constance Urdang Papers [MSS119]

Constance Urdang, a native of New York City, was a writer who achieved critical success as a poet and novelist and academic success as a teacher of writing. She did her undergraduate studies at Smith College. Following her graduation, Urdang worked for some years as a military intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of the Army and as an editor for several New York publishers.

Urdang returned to school in 1954 and in 1956 she received her MFA in writing from the University of Iowa. In 1960, Urdang and her husband, the poet Donald Finkel, came to Washington University where they taught in and co-directed the graduate Writers’ Program. Urdang’s first association with Washington University came in 1974, when she served as an instructor in advanced exposition in University College in Arts and Sciences and in the Writing Workshops for Women program in the School of Continuing Education. She also coordinated the Writers’ Program from its inception in 1977 until 1989. From 1989-90, Urdang was a lecturer in English, and in 1991, she taught in University College.

In 1965, Urdang’s first collection of poems, Charades and Celebrations, was published and four years later her only novel, Natural History, appeared. Urdang wrote seven additional collections of poetry after her novel, The Picnic in the Cemetery (1975), The Lone Woman and Others (1980), Only the World (1983), Lucha (1986), American Earthquakes (1988), The Woman Who Read Novels and Peacetime (1990), and Alternative Lives (1990). Among other awards, she received a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1976.

Collection Description

The Constance Urdang Papers include a nearly complete collection of manuscript and editorial material toward all of her published books. These materials include typescript drafts of entire books as well as drafts of individual poems. A number of Urdang’s journals and notebooks are also present. The collection also contains drafts of translations by Urdang and the drafts of two unpublished novels. The Urdang Papers are completed by a small yet significant collection of her business, personal, and literary correspondence.