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Melvin Landsberg Papers: Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos

Call Number: MS 342


Collection consists of letters, cards, and notes related to Melvin Landsberg's correspondence with and research on writer John Dos Passos, undertaken for his dissertation on and subsequent biography of Dos Passos, Dos Passos' Path to U.S.A.: A Political Biography, 1912-1936 (1972). The collection also includes correspondence with Dos Passos' friends and notes from interviews Landsberg conducted with Dos Passos' colleagues and friends.


  • 1956 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Melvin Landsberg

Born April 28, 1926, in the Bronx, New York, Melvin David Landsberg received his B.S. from the City College of New York in 1947, majoring in history. He went on to receive his M.A. in 1958, also in history, and his Ph.D. in English literature in 1959, both from Columbia University.

Landsberg spent a year traveling in Europe and had a brief teaching stint at the University of Washington before joining the University of Kansas faculty in 1961. He reached full Professor status in 1981 and retired in 2009. He specialized in the study of the Chicago-born novelist John Dos Passos, but taught a variety of courses for the KU English Department.

Melvin Landsberg died March 5, 2016.

Biography of John Dos Passos

John Roderigo Dos Passos was born January 14, 1896 in Chicago, IL and graduated from Harvard University in 1916, volunteering thereafter as an ambulance driver in World War I. After the war he worked as a newspaper correspondent and traveled extensively in Spain.

Dos Passos' experiences in Europe contributed to his radicalism; early novels he wrote included Three Soldiers (1921) and Manhattan Transfer (1925). Dos Passos later wrote his first major trilogy, U.S.A., consisting of the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936). These novels trace the history of the United States from 1900 to the Depression through fictional characters and representative real historical figures.

Dos Passos' second trilogy, District of Columbia, reflected his growing disillusionment with radicalism and leftist politics and a growing personal turn toward conservativism. This trilogy included the novels Adventures of a Young Man (1939), Number One (1943), and The Grand Design (1949).

John Dos Passos died in Baltimore, Maryland on September 28, 1970.


.5 Linear Feet (1 document case)


Correspondence from John Dos Passos to Melvin Landsberg appears first in the collection; these materials are organized chronologically. Dos Passos would sometimes reply to Landsberg's letters directly on the letter itself, particularly when Landsberg sent Dos Passos questionnaires or a series of questions. In these instances, Landsberg would sometimes note the date of receipt of the return reply in light pencil at the top of the letter. Dos Passos also sometimes provided feedback to Landsberg about drafts.

Following those letters is correspondence between Landsberg and friends or colleagues of Dos Passos; these materials are organized alphabetically by correspondent's family name. Materials at the end of the collection include correspondence from other scholars and miscellaneous envelopes, most of which came from Dos Passos but do not appear to correlate with any of the correspondence.

Physical Location

MS 342

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Melvin Landsberg, 2015.

Related Materials

Personal papers of Melvin Landsberg, PP 379, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Correspondence of John Dos Passos, MS P485, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Papers of John Dos Passos, Accession #5950, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.



Guide to the Melvin Landsberg Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos Collection
Melvin Landsberg Papers: Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos
Finding aid prepared by eh and lmb, 2015, 2018. Finding aid encoded by lmb, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding Aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Melvin Landsberg Papers: Correspondence with and about John Dos Passos, MS 342, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States