Adrienne Rich: Teaching at CUNY, 1968–1974, Now Available on Manifold

We are pleased to announce a digital edition of poet Adrienne Rich’s teaching materials from her time at the City College of New York, now freely available online.

View on Manifold: Adrienne Rich: Teaching at CUNY, 1968–1974, Parts I & II

Rich was one of the celebrated poets and writers brought to City College to teach writing in the SEEK program. In 2013, Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative published a two-volume chapbook of Rich’s teaching materials, edited by Iemanjá Brown, Stefania Heim, erica kaufman, Kristin Moriah, Conor Tomás Reed, Talia Shalev, Wendy Tronrud, and Ammiel Alcalay:

Drawing on memos, notes, course syllabi, and class exercises, this collection provides insight into Rich’s dedication, passion, and empathy as a teacher completely dedicated to her students as they take a leading role in reshaping access to public higher education. Rich’s characteristic public generosity and courage can be seen, for the first time, in an institutional setting through these materials. Accompanied by essays that contextualize both the pedagogy and the politics, this collection truly breaks new ground in presenting lesser-known aspects of a major poet’s work.

The Adrienne Rich volumes now join those from Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, and June Jordan, whose materials were digitized in 2020, in a collection of freely available Lost & Found texts that shed light on the experimental years of CCNY’s legendary SEEK program as it matured under Mina Shaughnessy.

Rich’s teaching materials are resonant with meaning for CUNY faculty and students today, and can be fruitfully incorporated into a variety of courses (see, for example, Daisy Atterbury and Maxine Krenzel’s use of the archival texts as summarized in 2019 for the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy). We hope that by broadening access to this work, more educators can make use of these texts in their classrooms. Alongside Rich’s archival texts, the volumes include an introduction and critical essays from the editors that help situate the material for readers.

Both volumes are now freely available online in a Manifold edition thanks to open educational resources funding provided to the Mina Rees Library by CUNY’s Office of Library Services. The digital edition was prepared by Dasharah Green, a doctoral candidate in English at the Graduate Center, and Roxanne Shirazi, assistant professor in the library and project director for the CUNY Digital History Archive, as part of an effort to expand access to materials that help bring CUNY’s history into CUNY’s classrooms. We are grateful for the helpful support provided by Robin Miller at Manifold throughout the process.

As today’s headlines are dominated by renewed student activism, encampments, agitation, and police on campuses that seem to evoke spring 1970 and its national student strikes, the City College of New York is once again a focal point here at CUNY. It is fitting, then, that we celebrate a collection that begins with Rich’s memo to her students during those strikes, in which she implores:

Whether or not your classes are meeting as usual, don’t stay away from the campus! There is plenty of political and human education going on there. This is part of what it means to be a college student in our time and is probably one of the most valuable parts of your education even though you don’t get academic credits for it. Come to the campus, talk to people, see what is happening, argue, act.

With students across the country mobilizing on campuses, we hope that reading Adrienne Rich’s reflections and notes will provide inspiration and grounding to educators and students as we finish out our own contentious semester.


About the Author

Roxanne Shirazi is assistant professor and dissertation research librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also serves as project director for the CUNY Digital History Archive and oversees the college’s institutional archives.