Show The Graduate Center Menu

Mary Ann Caws
Position: Distinguished Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature, English, and French
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center
Phone: (212) 817-8365
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D., University of Kansas; D.H.L. (Doctor of Humane Letters), Union College; Officer of the Palmes Académiques, Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Research Interests: Poetry and Poetics, Contemporary Literature and the Arts, Translation.

Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature, English, and French and Resident Professor at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Professor Caws was co-Director of the Henri Peyre French Institute  from 1980 to 2002, and a former Trustee of the Alliance Francaise (Washington, D.C.).. She is an Officier of the Palmes Académiques and a Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres  both (awarded by the French Government), recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Getty fellowships, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science.  Professor Caws is the author of The Eye in the TextReading Frames in Modern FictionThe Inner Theatre of Recent French Poetry; The Modern Art Cookbook,  among othersand of critical biographies of Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and The Life and Work of Dora Maar.  She is the editor of The Harper Collins World Reader; Textual Analysis; The Yale Anthology of Twentieth-Century French Poetry, Surrealism; The Surrealist Painters and Poets; and Surrealist Love Poetry. She has translated Tristan Tzara’s Approximate Man and Other Writings; André Breton’s Mad Love; Jacques Derrida and Paule Thévenin’s The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud; and Ostinato by Louis-René des Forêts. She is the co-translator and editor of Selected Poems and Prose of Stéphane Mallarmé; Mallarmé in Prose; The Essential Poems and Texts of Robert Desnos,,  Poems of André Breton, Paul Eluard, Capital of ‘Pain ,René Char: Furor and Mystery and Other Texts, Pierre Reverdy.

Selection of Books Published:

  • Robert Motherwell with Pen and Brush. London: Reaktion, 2003

  • To the Boathouse: a Memoir. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004

  • Jerome Hill: Living the Arts, 2005
  • Pablo Picasso: Critical Lives.  Reaktion Books, 2005, also in Italian, German
  • Henry James: Illustrated Life.  New York and London: Overlook Duckworth,  2006
  • Glorious Eccentrics: Modernist Women Painting, Writing, Resisting. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006
  • Surprised in Translation. Chicago:Chicago University Press, 2006.
  • Salvador Dali: Critical Lives.  Reaktion Books, 2008.
  • Provençal Cooking: Savoring a Simple Life in France. Pegasus Books, 2008.
  • How Vita Matters, Cecil Woolf publisher (Bloomsbury Heritage Series), 20011
  • Blaise Pascal: Miracles and Reason: Reaktion Books, 2016
  •  Glorieuses modernistes: Art, écriture et modernism au féminin,  with Anne Reynes-Delobel, Presses Universitaires de Liège (Série Littératures), 2015
  • Undoing Art, with Michel Delville. Macerata: Quodlibet Elements, 2017.
  • Creative Gatherings: Meeting Places of Modernism : London: Reaktion Books, 2019
  • Forthcoming: Alice Paalen Rahon (New York Review Poets) 2121
  • Mina Loy (Critical Lives: Reaktion) 2121
  • Surrealism and the Literary Imagination. The Hague: Mouton, 1966.
  • The Poetry of Dada and Surrealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.
  • The Inner Theatre of Recent French Poetry. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
  • André Breton. Boston: Twayne, 1974.
  • The Presence of René Char. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
  • René Char. Boston: Twayne, 1976.
  • The Surrealist Voice of Robert Desnos. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1977.
  • La Main de Pierre Reverdy. Geneva: Droz, 1979.
  • The Eye in the Text: Essays on Perception, Mannerist to Modern. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
  • A Metapoetics of the Passage: Architextures Surrealist and After. Hanover: University of New England Press, 1981.
  • L'Oeuvre filante de René Char. Paris: Nizet, 1981.
  • Yves Bonnefoy. Boston: Twayne, 1984.
  • Reading Frames in Modern Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.
  • Edmond Jabès. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988.
  • The Art of Interference: Stressed Readings in Visual and Verbal Texts. Cambridge: Polity, and Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • Women of Bloomsbury: Virginia, Vanessa, and Carrington. New York and London: Routledge, 1990.
  • Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  • Carrington and Lytton/ Alone Together. London: Cecil Woolf, 1996.
  • André Breton, Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1996.
  • The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1997.
  • Surrealism and the Art of Display.  Wexner Center, Fall, 1997.
  • Bloomsbury and France: Art and Friends. (with Sarah Bird Wright)  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Picasso's Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar.  Boston: Little Brown / Bulfinch, 2000.  Dora Maar with and without Picasso: A Biography. London: Thames and  Hudson, 2000.  Translations:  Les Vies de Dora Maar:  Bataille, Picasso et les surrealistes. Paris: Thames et Hudson, 2000;  Dora Maar con y sin Picasso: una biografia (Madrid: Destino, 2000); Die Kunsterlin an Picasso's Seite (Berlin: Nicolai, 2000).
  • Virginia Woolf: Illustrated Life. New York and London: Overlook Duckworth, 2001; 2004 (paper).
  • Marcel Proust: Illustrated Life. New York and London: Overlook Duckworth, 2003.
  • Pierre Reverdy. Editor and co-translator. New York Review Books, 2013.
  • The Modern Art Cookbook. Reaktion Books, 2013.
  • the Milk Bowl of Feathers: Essential Surrealist Writings, New Directions, 2018.
  • Creative Gatherings: Meeting Places of Modernism . Reaktion Books, 2019.
  • Mina Loy (Critical Lives), Reaktion: forthcoming


  • Théorie/Tableau/Texte.  Paris: Minard, 1983.
  • About French Poetry from Dada to Tel Quel: Theory and Text. Detroit: Wayne State, 1984.
  • The Prose Poem in France (co-editor with Hermine Riffaterre). New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
  • Le Manifeste et le caché. Paris: Minard, 1981.
  • Le Texte et son double.  Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1985.
  • Writing in a Modern Temper. Stanford: Anma Libri, 1984.
  • Textual Analysis: Some Readers Reading. New York: Modern Language Association, 1986.
  • Perspectives on Perception: Philosophy, Art, and Literature. New York: Peter Lang, 1988.
  • Edmond Jabès. (co-editor with Richard Stamelman)  Geneva: Editions de la Montagne, 1989.
  • Reading Proust Now. (co-editor with Eugène Nicole)  New York: Peter Lang, 1990.
  • Selected Poems of René Char. (co-editor with Tina Jolas and translated)  New York: New Directions, 1992.
  • Women and Surrealism. (co-editor with Ruedi Kuenzli and Gwen Raaberg)  Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1991.
  • City Images. Philadelphia, Gordon and Breach, 1991.
  • L'Esprit Créateur. (co-editor with Richard Stamelman) 32, 2 (Summer 1992).
  • Joseph Cornell's Theater of the Mind: Selected Journals, Letters, and Files. New York and London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.
  • HarperCollins World Reader. (chief editor)  New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
  • Contre-Courants: Les femmes s'écrivent à travers les siècles. (co-edited with Nancy K. Miller, Elizabeth Houlding, and Cheryl Morgan)  Prentice Hall, 1994.
  • Écritures de femmes:  Nouvelles Cartographies. (co-editor with Mary Jean Green, Marianne Hirsch, Ronnie Scharfman)  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • "Around Yves Bonnefoy" (co-editor with Renée Waldinger)  Special issue of L'Esprit Créateur, 36, 3 (Fall 1996).
  • The Surrealist Painters and Poets.  Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2001.
  • Manifesto: A Century of Isms.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
  • Surrealism. New York and London: Phaidon (Themes and Movements series), 2004
  • Yale Book of Twentieth Century French Poetry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004
  • co-editor with Michel Delville:  
  •       the Edinburgh Companion to the Prose Poem January, 2021
  •      the French Prose Poem. New York Review Books: Poets (forthcoming)
  •      Beginnings: Early Prose Poems from All Over. Black Widow Books, January 2021. 
  • Alice Paalen Rahon. New York Review Books: Poets (forthcoming)


  • Tristan Tzara, Approximate Man and Other Writings, 1974.
  • Poems of René Char. (with Jonathan Griffin)  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
  • Roof Slates and other Poems of Pierre Reverdy. (with Patricia Terry)  Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1981.
  • Selected Poems and Prose of Stephane Mallarmé. New York: New Directions, 1982.
  • Poems of André Breton. (with Jean-Pierre Cauvin)  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.
  • Selected Poems of St-John Perse. New York: New Directions, 1982.
  • André Breton, Mad Love. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
  • Andre Breton, Communicating Vessels. (with Geoffrey Harris)  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
  • Marcelin Pleynet, Robert Motherwell. Paris: Daniel Papierski, 1990.
  • Selected Poems of Pierre Reverdy. (editor and co-translator with Patricia Terry) Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University Press, 1991.
  • Selected Poems of René Char.  (editor and co-translator with Tina Jolas)  New York: New Directions, 1991.
  • Jacques Derrida and Paule Thévenin, The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1998.
  • André Breton, Lost Steps. (co-editor with Mark Polizzotti)  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.
  • André Breton, Break of Day. (co-translator and co-editor with Mark Polizzotti) Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  • Mallarmé in Prose. (co-translator and editor) New York: New Directions, 2001.
  • Louis-René des Forêts, Ostinato.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
  • Gherasim Luca, Self-Shadowing Prey.  New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2013.
  • Lorand Gaspar, Earth Absolute and Other Texts, with Nancy Kline. New York, Contra Mundum Press, 1982.

Elected Positions:

  • President, Association for Study of Dada and Surrealism, 1971-75
  • President, Modern Language Association of America, 1983
  • President, Academy of Literary Studies, 1984-5
  • President, American Comparative Literature Association, 1989-91
  • Century Association, Member
  • Fellow, New York University Institute for the Humanities (current)
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (current)

Art Catalogues:

  • Surrealism and the rue Blomet. London and New York, Eykyn Maclean 2013
  • Larry Poons (Loretta Howard Gallery)
  • Robert Motherwell and Collage (Paul Kasmin Gallery)
  • André Masson: A Mythology of Desire, catalogue for exhibition, Blain/Di Donna, April, 2012
  • Jean Arp: A Collection of Wood Reliefs and Collages, catalogue for exhibition, Blain/Di Donna, November, 2012
  • Elspeth Halvorsen, Sand, Swings, and Moon. Berta Walker Gallery, Provincetown, 2013 
  • Surrealism in the New World (Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco)
  • co-authored: Picasso and the Camera (Gagosian )
  • Kay Sage, co-Authored with Stephen Robeson Miller, 2018
  • Snail Time (Postmedia, Milan, 2018)


  • Guggenheim Fellow, Fulbright Fellow; 1972-3
  • ​National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow 1998
  • Director, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars (2);
  • Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar; life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University;
  • Getty Scholar 1989-90
  • Rockefeller Foundation (Bellagio) fellow 1994, 2005
  • Virginia Center for Creative Arts 2013


  • Editor: Le Siècle éclaté (Paris: 1973--);
  • Co-Editor, Dada and Surrealism (1980--);
  • Chief Editor, HarperCollins World Reader (1994);
  • Editorial Board: College Literature; Comparative Literature Studies; International Journal of Philosophy 2020
  • Comparative Studies; Diacritics; French Review (1970-80); Modern Fiction Studies; New York Literary Forum; Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA,1979-81); Sites; Twentieth Century Studies.
  • Advisor: Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern Poetry; Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies Reader.

     See also the Mary Ann Caws page at TimeWarner Bookmarks.