Press Release: Mary Ann Caws Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Mary Ann Caws, Distinguished Professor of French, English, and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' 2009 class. She is among 212 new Fellows and 19 new Foreign Honorary Members selected for their leadership in scholarship, business, the arts, and public affairs.

Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in the United States. The Academy has elected as Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Professor Caws’s areas of expertise cover a wide swath of twentieth-century avant-garde literature and art, including Surrealism, poets RenĂ© Char and AndrĂ© Breton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, and artists Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, and Pablo Picasso. Throughout her work, a primary theme has been the relationship between image and text.

A prolific scholar, Caws has written or edited more than sixty books and done many translations.  She is the author of Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds (Columbia University Press, 1995); The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter (MIT Press, 1997) and Picasso's Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar (Little, Brown/Thames & Hudson, 2000), among many others.  Books she has edited include Joseph Cornell's Theatre of the Mind: Selected Diaries, Letters and Files (Thames & Hudson, 2000); Manifesto: A Century of Isms (University of Nebraska Press, 2000); and Surrealist Love Poems (Tate/University of Chicago Press, 2002).  She has also produced a memoir, To the Boathouse (University Alabama Press, 2004) and a cookbook Provencal Cooking: Savoring the Simple Life in France (Pegasus Books, 2008).

Among the prominent positions she has held, Caws has been President of the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism (1971-75), the Modern Language Association of America (1983), the Academy of Literary Studies (1984-85), and the American Comparative Literature Association (1989-91).

Caws joins eight other Graduate Center faculty members who are currently members: Anna J. Schwartz (Economics), David Harvey (Anthropology), Frances Degen Horowitz (Psychology, President Emerita), Saul Kripke (Philosophy), Richard Kramer (Music), Myriam Sarachik (Physics), Richard Sorabji (Philosophy, Visiting Professor), and Dennis Sullivan (Mathematics).

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." The Academy will welcome this year's new Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members at its annual Induction Ceremony on October 10 at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Graduate Center is devoted primarily to doctoral studies and awards most of the City University of New York’s Ph.D.s. An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.  Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at


Submitted on: APR 1, 2009

Category: Comparative Literature | English | French | Press Room