Scope and arrangement
The papers include correspondence from Ms Sayre's English and American friends including authors, editors, writers and journalists; original handwritten letters to her lover while she was living abroad in Paris and London which describe her social and literary life including anecdotal accounts of encounters with notable literary figures; a large file of research notes and papers for her writings on American culture, politics and society; audiocassettes, notes and transcripts of her interviews with actors, authors, Hollywood screenwriters, playwrights, lawyers and others relating to blacklisting in the motion picture industry, loyalty oaths, racial desegregation, and congressional investigations into communism and subversive activities; typescripts of her published books and of her speeches, lectures, articles, essays, book reviews, film reviews, and fictional writings; papers relating to her teaching of creative nonfiction writing; and diary notes and notebooks recording her travels abroad, her social life and activities, her intimate thoughts and introspections, and extensive notes in the form of reminiscences of her parents, especially her father, Joel G. Sayre, the breakup of her marriage, and her loneliness and frustration at her failure to find an enduring love relationship. Included also are college notes and compositions kept while a student at Radcliffe College; pocket calendars and address books; photographic portraits and snapshots of Ms. Sayre and members of the Sayre and Lynahan families; posters; and other personal miscellany.
The Nora Sayre papers are arranged in twelve series:
The correspondence is arranged into three subseries: A. Chronological; B. Alphabetical; and C. Family.
The Research Files, which comprise almost one-half of the collection, are arranged into two files: A. Name/Subject file; and B. Films.
The interviews were conducted by Ms Sayre during the 1970s in preparation of her historical writings on American society, culture and politics. Audiotaped interviews are listed in Series. XII Sound Recordings.
The notes and transcripts are arranged alphabetically by name of interviewee. They consist of Ms Sayre's handwritten notes hurriedly scrawled in spiral notebooks (now disbanded) made during the interview; and typed transcripts of interviews made from her notes or from audiotapes. Parts of some transcripts bear the notation "not on tape". A transcript of an interview conducted by Barbara Hogensen with Albert and Frances Hackett is filed at the end of the alphabetical series. Additional notes and transcripts of interviews are scattered in Series II. Research Papers as noted below.
The bulk of the interviews are with persons affected by Congressional and other official investigations into Communism, Communists, and subversive activities which occurred in America during the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II. largely under the influence of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The interviews were conducted by Ms Sayre with screenwriters, novelists, lawyers, Theatre critics, playwrights, actors, and others including Leonard Boudin, Harold Clurman, Malcolm Cowley, James T. Farrell, Elia Kazan, Ring Lardner, Dwight Macdonald, Arthur Miller, and Victor Rabinowitz. A wide range of subject matters is covered including blacklisting in the motion picture industry, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Eastland Committee, loyalty oaths, the F.B.I., the Cold War, the Korean War, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, racial desegregation, and expatriate Americans. Many interviewees relate their personal experience during the 1920s-1930s. The interviews were made during the course of her research for her historical writings, especially her book Previous Convictions: a Journey through the 1950s (New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press c1995),
Additional notes and/ or transcripts of interviews including an interview with Autherine Lucy (Box 38), the first black student to attend the University of Alabama, are located in Series II. Research Papers in the following containers and folders: Box 19, f. 7: James Aronson; Henry Steele Commager; Herman and Betty Liveright; Victor Rabinowitz; Maurice Rapf; Joel G. Sayre. Box 20, f. 3-5: Douglas Dowd; Peter Goldschmidt; Charles Muscatine; Kenneth Stampp and Leon Litwack; Joseph Tussman. Box 21, f. 1: Bernard Kottan. Box 21, f. 4: Harold Clurman; Philip Dunne; Ephraim London; Alice and Ian Hunter; Sam Moore; Polanskys; Anne [B...?] Box 21, f. 5: Maurice Rapf; Sam Moore; Patricia Bosworth; Carey McWilliams; Victor Chapin; Erik Wensberg; Albert Maltz; Dorothy Healey. Box 22, f. 3: Mary Y[...?]. Box 22, f. 5: Maurice Greenbaum. Box 22, f. 4: Allen Zak. Box 23, f. 3: Edith Kane; Erik Wensberg; Robert Duncan. Box 23, f. 4: Al Richmond; Florence Mischel; Bill Powell; Sam Kushner. Box 23, f. 5: Sidney Roger; Alvah Bessie; Carleton Goodlett. Box 31, f. 5: J. Oakes; Sy Peck; A. H. Raskin; Alden Whitman. Box 32, f. 4: Walker Evans and Hank O'N.; Walker Evans - tapes from the Estate; Leslie Katz and Jane Mayhall; Calvert Coggeshall; Paul Grotz; John Hioll on Walker Evans; John Macdonald; William McDonough; Elizabeth Shaw; John Szarkowki; Jerry Thompson; Erik Wensberg. Box 33, f. 3: Chris Beels. Box 33, f. 8: Alice and Ian Hunter; excerpts? of interviews with Beatrice R[...?], Laslo Benedek, and Ring Lardner. Box 36, f. 3: Alger Hiss. Box 38, f. 2. Seymour Krim. Box 38, 4: Hans Lewy. Box 38, f. 8: Jefferson Bennett; Judge Crooks; Culpepper Clark. Box 38, f. 9: Autherine Lucy; Constance Baker Motley; Arthur Shores. Box 40, f. 8: James B. Griffin. Box 42, f. 3: Benson Wolman; Robert Bremner; Stanley and Louise Robinson; Megan Mountain. Box 42, f. 5: Wilma Shore Solomon. Box 42, f. 7: Abe Polansky. Box 43, f. 6: Arnold Weinstein. Box 44, f. 1: Nick Wahl; A. Weinstein and Kimball; Bill Alfred et al. Box 45, f. 5: Typed transcript of interview conducted by Lewis C. Branscomb with Joel G. Sayre. Box 46, f. 8: Dwight Macdonald. Box 47, f. 4: Interview with Donald Ogden Stewart conducted by Max Wilk. Box 47, f. 9: Emily Hahn. Box 47, f. 10: Ann Honecutt; Joseph Mitchell. Box 48, f. 1: Edith Haggard; Nunnally Johnson
The writings by Nora Sayre are arranged into five subseries: A. Books; B. Articles/Essays; C. Book Reviews; D. Film Reviews; E. Fiction; and F. Clippings of Published Writings
This subseries consists of typescripts, galley proofs, page proofs, and mimeograph copies of mainly nonfiction writings by friends and acquaintances of Ms Sayre. Many of the scripts bear her marginal underlines and annotations. Included are scripts of plays by Vincent Canby, Jack Jessup, and F. M. Kimball; and a script of a novel by Hortense Calisher.
The typescript of William Alfred's autobiography is accompanied by a typescript of an interview with William Alfred conducted by Bruce Baird-Middleton, dated September 16, 1988.
The galleys of Un-American Activities, by Sally Belfrage, is accompanied by a letter from Joy Johannessen, senior editor at Harper Collins, which alludes to encouragement to the author given by Ms Sayre.
The typescript of James Huddleston's biography of James Stern is accompanied by four letters to Ms Sayre regarding Stern.
Included is a copy of the published edition of James Peck's autobiography, Underdogs Vs Upperdogs. The work was published in limited edition (1500 copies) by Greenleaf Books, Canterbury. N.H., 1969.
This subseries consists of holograph and typescript drafts of speeches and lectures given at colleges, universities, and cultural institutions including the Modern Language Association, the Museum of Broadcasting, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Pacific Film Archives. Included also are lecture notes; correspondence and papers relating to schedules; and publicity materials. The files are arranged alphabetically by place or venue; and alphabetically by title. There is also a file of untitled scripts; and a file of texts of readings.
The bulk of these papers relate to the Creative Nonfiction Workshop courses given by Ms Sayre in the Writing Program of the School of General Studies at Columbia University. Included also are lecture notes for courses given given at Colorado College ("Images of Women in Film"); at the State University of New York at Stony Brook; and at Wesleyan University's Writers Conference.
- ca. 1949-1994
This series consists of holograph notes kept by Ms Sayre on loose sheets, spiral notepads (disbanded) and notebooks arranged chronologically in the period c1949-1994 and undated. The notes record her thoughts, introspections, social life and activities from her student days at The Putney School and Radcliffe College throughout much of her adult life. The notes in the earlier period (1950s to mid-1960s) describe her efforts to become established in Europe as a freelance writer. Included are shipboard notes made while crossing the Atlantic, lengthy notes of her travels in England, Wales, France and Ireland; her life in Paris where she studied French literature while searching for employment as a writer; and extensive notes relating to her settlement in London, the arrangement of her domestic affairs there, her meetings with the London literati including Arthur Koestler and the novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard; and her brief marriage and divorce. During the later period there are notes relating to her sojourns at Yaddo in the summers of 1986 and 1989; her literary work, and extensive notes in the the form of reminiscences of her parents, especially her father, the breakup of her marriage, her romantic life, and her loneliness and frustration at failing to find an enduring love relationship. Included is one folder of notes made by Ms Sayre taken from her letters to Peter Judd.
This series consists of photographic portraits and snapshots of Nora Sayre taken at various periods of her life from early childhood until late middle age. Included are photographs taken in London; during her sojourns at The McDowell Colony and at Yaddo; while book signing for her book Running Time; while acting at The Poet's Theatre, Harvard; and at the family residence in West Dennis on Cape Cod. Included also are photographs of various members of the Sayre and Lynahan families.
Publicity posters announcing lectures by Nora Sayre at Ithaca College, the Museum of Modern Art, and an unidentified location. Included also is a pencil sketch by Angela Conner of Ms. Sayre in reclining posture.
The sound recordings consist chiefly of interviews Sayre conducted for her book Previous Convictions. Much of the material concerns blacklisting and the anticommunist extremism of the 1950s. Additional recordings include tapes of Sayre's public appearances and those collected for her research.