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James Berlin papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 161

Scope and Contents

Papers relating to the career of James Berlin, Professor of English at Purdue University and major figure in the development of cultural studies pedagogy in rhetoric and composition. Materials include NEH Seminar (1977-1979), Teaching Materials (1980-1994), Research Materials (1884-1993), Collegial Correspondence (1979-1992), and Faculty Governance and Community Activism (1985-1993). Included in the Faculty Governance series is a report on "The Status of Women at Purdue and the Need for a Fully Funded Women's Resource Office." Please see PDF Finding Aid for collection inventory.


  • 1978 - 1994


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

This collection is open for research. One box of confidential student records and peer evaluations is restricted from access until 2064.

Copyright and Use Information

Some material in this collection are in the public domain, while other material copyrights are held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

James Berlin was a faculty member in the Department of English at Purdue University from 1987 to 1994. He was a nationally renowned educator and scholar in rhetoric and composition, valued for his leadership in the development of a cultural studies approach to teaching writing. He was also known for his scholarship on the history of rhetoric and composition theory.

Berlin was born in 1942 in Hamtramck, Michigan. He attended St. Florian High School, where he played football and basketball. He entered Central Michigan University on a football scholarship, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree and graduating summa cum laude in 1964. Berlin began teaching in elementary schools in Flint and Detroit, Michigan. In 1969 he entered graduate school at The University of Michigan, working towards a degree in English. He received his Master of Arts degree from Michigan in 1970, and his Ph.D. in Victorian literature from there in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was on the relation of German Idealism to Tennyson, Browning, and Arnold.

After he received his Ph.D. he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Composition at Wichita State University (1975 until 1981). While at Wichita State, Berlin served as the first director of the Kansas Writing Project. Berlin later worked as Associate Professor of English at University of Cincinnati (1981-1985), where he was also Director of Freshman English. In 1985 he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin as a Visiting Associate Professor of English; at the same time he was serving as a visiting professor at Penn State University. Berlin joined the Purdue University faculty as Professor of English in 1987.

Berlin was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Modern Language Association, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts, the College English Association of Ohio, and the Rhetoric Society of America. He published numerous journal articles on rhetoric and teaching composition, and was the author of Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges (1984) and Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985 (1987). Berlin died suddenly of a heart attack on February 2, 1994. He was survived by his wife, Sandy, and his sons Chris and Dan.


13.662 Cubic Feet (28 manuscript boxes and one cubic foot box)

Arrangement Note

The arrangement of the papers reflects Berlin’s original order, with a few exceptions. Teaching related materials from Berlin’s papers were used and subsequently returned by faculty members who taught Berlin’s classes after his unexpected and sudden death; thus, the original order of these materials cannot be certain.  Berlin’s handwritten research notes have been organized chronologically.  Readings included in Berlin’s research materials are organized alphabetically by subject or author, reflecting Berlin’s own folder titles and order.  The papers are divided into ten series.

Physical Access Requirements

The collection is stored offsite; 24 hours notice is required to access the collection.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Sandy Berlin on Decemeber 6, 2005.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free, lignin-free folders and boxes.  All newsprint has been photocopied and original newspaper clippings have been discarded.
James Berlin papers
In Progress
Shirley K. Rose and Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States