Mary Ann Caws

Mary Ann Caws near microphone

Research Interests

  • Art and Text
  • Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
  • Modern French Literature
  • Surrealism
  • Translation
  • English Modernism, especially Bloomsbury
  • American Southern
  • Women's Writing and Memoirs
  • Film Studies


  • B.A., Bryn Mawr College
  • M.A., Yale University
  • Ph.D., University of Kansas

Mary Ann Caws is an Officer of the Palmes Académiques (awarded by the French Minister of Education) and a former trustee of the French Institute of Washington. She was born and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and earned her B.A. (cum laude) at Bryn Mawr, her M.A. at Yale University, and her doctorate from the University of Kansas. In the more than thirty books she authored over fifty years, she covered a wide swath of contemporary literature and the arts. Their titles include Surrealism and the Literary Imagination (1966); André Breton (1974); The Eye in the Text: Essays on Perception, Mannerist to Modern (1981); Reading Frames in Modern Fiction (1986); Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds (1995); The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter (1997); Bloomsbury and France: Art and Friends (1999), with Sarah Bird Wright; Marcel Proust: Illustrated Life (2003); Surprised in Translation (2006); Provençal Cooking (2008); and The Modern Art Cookbook (2013).

Caws has also served as editor on more than twenty books in French and English. A well-known translator from French, she has published translations of Tristan Tzara, René Char, Stéphane Mallarmé, Pierre Reverdy, Jacques Derrida, and Louis-René des Forêts, among others. Caws served as codirector of the Graduate Center’s Henri Peyre French Institute from 1980 to 2002 and holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Union College. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was president of the Modern Language Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism, and the Association of American Scholars.

Awards and Grants

  • Exterior to Graduate School funding
  • Guggenheim Fellowship 1972-3

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Century Association
  • Clare Hall Life membership
  • BIO
  • MLA
  • Ordre des Arts et Lettres
  • Palmes Academiques

Courses Taught

  • Art and Text courses in Comparative Literature
  • English, and French Ph.D. programs
  • Letters and Lives
  • the Bloomsbury Group
  • Dada and Surrealism
  • Singularities
  • Portraits and Autoportraits
  • Performance and Theatre
  • Films and Careers


  • Catalog Essays for Di Donna
  • Eykyn Gallery
  • Nahmad Contemporary
  • Freedman Gallery
  • Reviews for Brooklyn Rail
  • London Review of Books
  • Times Literary Supplement
  • Mosaic
  • Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry
  • Various introductions and texts for various encyclopedias

Jerome Hill: Living the Arts (The Jerome Foundation, 2005describes the variegated interests and talents of this innovative filmmaker who funded the founding of the Anthology Film Archives and whose filmed autobiography influenced other filmmakers. He was a highly talented painter, known for his colorful and calm images of the Mediterranean and the south of France, and a photographer, as well as a composer. He was close to the Bloomsbury group when they were in Fontcreuse near Cassis, a seaside town where he initiated the Camargo Foundation for musicians, painters, and scholars. This is a heavily illustrated biography of Jerome Hill, published by the Jerome Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota.