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John Updike Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms118

The John Updike Papers consists of materials toward interviews about Updike in Life Magazine (November 4, 1966) and Time Magazine (April 26, 1968) and one poetry draft by Updike.


  • 1965-1983


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collections must read and abide by the Reading Room and Reproduction Policy.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of Intent to Quote from or Publish Manuscript Materials.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.


1.00 boxes

Biographical Information

John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. Updike's most famous work is his Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom series (the novels Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and the novella "Rabbit Remembered"), which chronicles Rabbit's life over the course of several decades, from young adulthood to his death. Both Rabbit Is Rich (1981) and Rabbit At Rest (1990) received the Pulitzer Prize. Updike is one of only three authors to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. He published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker, starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books.

He graduated from Shillington High School as co-valedictorian and class president in 1950 and subsequently attended Harvard after receiving a full scholarship. At Harvard, he soon became widely known among his classmates as an extremely talented and prolific contributor to the Harvard Lampoon, of which he served as president, before graduating summa cum laude in 1954 with a degree in English.

After graduation, he decided to become a graphic artist and attended The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. His early ambition was to be a cartoonist. After returning to the United States, Updike and his family moved to New York, where he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker. This was the beginning of his writing career.

Updike worked in a wide array of genres, including fiction, poetry (most of it compiled in Collected Poems: 1953-1993, 1993), essays (collected in nine separate volumes), a play (Buchanan Dying, 1974), and a memoir (Self-Consciousness, 1989).

Updike won an array of awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction, two National Book Awards, three National Book Critics Circle awards, both the 1989 National Medal of Arts and 2003 National Humanities Medal, and the Rea Award for the Short Story for outstanding achievement. The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Updike to present the 2008 Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. government's highest humanities honor; Updike's lecture was entitled "The Clarity of Things: What Is American about American Art."

Updike married Mary E. Pennington, an art student at Radcliffe College, in 1953. The couple had four children together. Updike and Pennington divorced in 1974. In 1977, Updike married Martha Ruggles Bernhard, with whom he lived in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts until his death of lung cancer at a hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

Method of Acquisition

Accession number 810, purchase from the Country Squires Catalogue 397 and 398, 1967 February 3

Accession number 975, purchase from House of Books, 1968 August 27

Accession number 998, purchase from House of Books, 1968 October 25

Accession number 2016.003, purchase from Link Auction Galleries, 2016 February 29

Processing Information

Processed by Washington University Department Special Collections Staff, April 1970


John Updike Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 8: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495