About the collection

An introduction to the Germaine Greer collection at the University of Melbourne Archives

Germaine Greer runs a tutorial on Jacobean revenge tragedy at University of Warwick.
Germaine Greer runs a tutorial on Jacobean revenge tragedy at University of Warwick. In his LIFE profile, reporter Jordan Bonfante noted that “the lecturer, a woman of 32, looks like a singer of country-rock”. Picture: Terence Spencer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Acquisition

The Germaine Greer Archive currently fills 487 archive boxes (occupying 82 metres of shelf space) mainly documenting the period 1959-2010 and is still in the process of being created; two deposits have been received in 2016 and more are scheduled. The University of Melbourne purchased the archive in 2013. It documents Greer’s work as an academic, a film, TV and theatre performer, a writer (notably her extensive work as a journalist) and an environmentalist; and her personal relationships with friends, lovers, family, colleagues, students and fans. It contains:

  • incoming and outgoing correspondence including a large series of general correspondence and smaller sets of correspondence with publishers, academics and librarians; appointments diaries
  • notes and drafts relating to academic studies and research at the universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Cambridge
  • major works including research material, drafts, proofs, clippings and publicity
  • files on print journalism, speaking, radio and television engagements including drafts and published versions, correspondence, notes, clippings, commissions and contracts
  • a small cache of sketches and papers for Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, and scripts, pitches or synopses for theatre and film
  • photographs, including the LIFE photograph album; Diane Arbus proof sheets from a photo-shoot with Greer at the Chelsea Hotel, New York in 1971; rock photographer Keith Morris’ 1968 OZ photographs of Greer; and a small collection of other photographs taken, or received, by Greer
  • correspondence and papers relating to Australia regarding visits, media, politics and family
  • audio-visual recordings including those created, received and collected by Greer on various media; digital media containing electronic drafts, research, and correspondence;
  • records relating to university appointments including teaching literature at the universities of Warwick, Tulsa and Newnham College, Cambridge;
  • research files on women and literature and women artists; the records of Stump Cross Books; honours and awards;
  • books including major works and books with contributions by Greer and books that were significant to Greer in researching and writing The Female Eunuch;
  • ephemera mainly feminist magazines and the underground press; and administrative files on housekeeping, gardening, Essex and the Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme.
  • Two of Greer’s computers, a Mac Powerbook G4 and one iMacG5

The University of Melbourne Archives is working with Germaine Greer to manage further deposits. In March 2016, Germaine Greer hand delivered four new boxes of records. This accession included recent correspondence, speaking and print files and some records relating to Cave Creek.

In April, the archive accessioned three new boxes of material sent from Greer’s home in Essex. The boxes contained Greer’s files from 2010 (print, correspondence, miscellaneous) and some earlier correspondence as well as a selection of books that were significant to Greer as she wrote The Female Eunuch, or books inscribed to Greer from the authors. Selected books include: a proof copy of Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970); Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death (1968) and Love’s Body (1966); Mary Ellman, Thinking About Women (1969); Erna Wright, Periods without Pain (1966); and a heavily annotated copy of Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1966); Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving (1969); Norman Mailer, Cannibals/Christians (1966).

Subject Headings

Archivists have catalogued the Greer records using a combination of Library of Congress subject headings and subject headings that are specific to these records. We have used standard terms to describe Greer’s books and significant people and projects. For example, mentions of Germaine Greer’s father are all listed as Eric (Reg) Greer while her mother is Peggy Greer. Cave Creek Rainforest is the subject heading for records about the forest Greer purchased in Queensland. Standard language is used for all Greer’s newspaper columns, including Country Notebook (The Telegraph), Arts Comment (The Guardian) and Look (The Sunday Times). Early modern writers such as Aphra Behn, Ann Wharton and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea and Stump Cross Press are prominent subject headings in the Women and Literature series list and elsewhere. Other non-standard subject headings included in the project thesaurus are: Female Gaze; Bra burning; Girl power; Lipstick feminists; Mistakes, literary; and the titles of unrealised projects, including Fortune’s Maggot (an unpublished book on Margaret Thatcher) and The Story of Human Reproduction (proposed television series, unrealised).  We are aiming to publish the ‘Greer thesaurus’ once we have completed cataloguing the collection.

What is in the boxes?

General correspondence series (2014.0042)

The General Correspondence series consists of 120 boxes of correspondence received by Germaine Greer between 1958 and 2014. This encompasses responses by the public to Greer's published works, film, television and radio appearances, approaches for work from newspapers, production companies and academics, invitations to conferences, exhibitions and book launches, and personal correspondence with friends and lovers. The series reflects the remarkable diversity of Greer's career, from scholar and teacher of English literature, to enfant terrible of the second wave feminists, to enthusiastic gardener and conservationist. The series is a working filing system used by Greer to negotiate work and projects, maintain personal relationships and interact with the public. As such it provides valuable insight into many aspects of Greer’s life and career, as well as presenting a sense of the impact of Greer’s work via responses from readers and fans. Correspondents include members of the public, journalists, academics, filmmakers, artists, publishers, friends and family, encompassing project proposals, invitations to speak, responses to Greer’s work and personal correspondence. The series has been catalogued by correspondent using Library of Congress Subject Headings to indicate significant areas of interest.

Early years academic, performance, writing and personal papers (2014.0044)

This series holds papers relating to Germaine Greer’s early work as an academic, a performer and a writer (of essays, journalism, speeches, plays, film scripts, poems and letters). It includes summaries, chapter drafts, notes, a synopsis and a statement of intention for The Female Eunuch and evidence of how the book transformed the life of its author and countless readers as well. Letters, appointment diaries, financial records, inventories, telegrams, newspaper and magazine clippings and political ephemera document Greer’s  life in England and Italy (notably Il Palazzone 1970-1972 and her house at Pianelli 1973-1994) and her extensive post-Eunuch travels. This series also contains many letters. Notable collections of correspondence here include: Italian-language letters between Germaine Greer and Federico Fellini (1975-1988); 500 letters from people who watched two episodes of The Dick Cavett Show hosted by Greer in June 1971 (on abortion and on rape); letters between Greer and Kenneth Tynan about Greer’s script for Lysistrata (1971-72); letters between Greer and Marsha Rowe, co-founder of Spare Rib. About half of the Early Papers series, eight boxes in all, contain Greer’s university notes from Melbourne (1956-1959), the University of Sydney (1960-1963), and the University of Cambridge (1964-1967) and from Warwick University where Greer lectured in English from 1967 until 1973.

Research and reference card indexes (2014.0039)

This series holds Germaine Greer’s card indexes containing research and references for her books, articles and academic research including: PhD The Ideology of Love and Marriage in the Sixteenth Century; The Female Eunuch; The Obstacle Race; Sex and Destiny; The Change; Shakespeare's Wife; Daddy We Hardly Knew You; and others. The cards were stored in bundles in small file cabinet drawers. In 2014 bundles were labelled by Germaine Greer according to project or research topic and the number of the drawer from which they came. These labels have been retained and additional descriptive information drawn from the card indexes has been added by an archivist and indicated in the list by [square brackets]. All detail not in brackets is from Professor Greer. In 2015 each index card within the three bundles of The Female Eunuch card indexes (2014.0039.00001, 2014.0039.00002, and 2014.0039.00003) was described and digitised. They are available online at The University of Melbourne Archives website by typing the series number 2014.0039 into the Search Digitised Items search box. The digitised cards are a feature collection as part of the University of Melbourne’s digital collections.

Major works (2014.0045)

The Major Works series comprises 54 boxes holding over 600 folders relating to the commissioning, researching, writing, editing and publication of Germaine Greer’s “major works”, subsequent to The Female Eunuch (for records of which see Series 2014.0039:The Female Eunuch Index Cards and 2014.0044: Early Years). In addition to published works, this series includes records of unrealised publications and projects, some journalism, records pertaining to teaching, business and personal matters, letters, diaries and ephemera. Major works contained in this series are: The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (1979); Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984); The Mad Woman's Underclothes (1986); Shakespeare (Past Masters series) (1986); Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989);The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991); Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet. (1995); The Whole Woman (1999); John Wilmot: Earl of Rochester (2000); Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction (2002); Poems for Gardeners (2003); The Boy (2003); Whitefella Jump Up: The Shortest Way to Nationhood (2004;first published 2003 in Quarterly Essay); Shakespeare’s Wife (2007); and White Beech: The Rainforest Years (2013). This final publication concerns Greer’s continuing interest in environmental conservation which culminated in the purchase of the freehold of a property at Cave Creek in the Brisbane hinterland in December 2001, and the establishment of the Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme (CCRRS) to ensure the conservation of the property’s  rainforest setting.

Print (2014.0046)

This series documents Germaine Greer's international career as a print journalist. The 1270 files, housed in 24 boxes, include typescripts, clippings, handwritten notes, correspondence, proofs and ephemera relating to Greer's work as a feature writer, a columnist, theatre and book reviewer, art critic and an essayist as well as her brief stints as a foreign correspondent in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Cuba and Brazil. Greer's work has been published in major newspapers and magazines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, India and South Africa and has appeared, in translation, in French, Polish, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish newspapers and magazines. The print series also includes Greer's introductions for Hesperus Press's translations of out-of-print European classics and there are book reviews and forewords for a wide range of publications, including scholarly journals like William and Mary Quarterly and edited collections and books about artists. Dozens of pieces are notes for opera company programs, most often Glyndebourne. Other records relate to Greer's substantial scholarly essays on early modern writing published in academic anthologies and her writing on feminist studies, notably 'What are we doing and why are we doing it?' Greer's 1980 essay on women's studies courses, published in the inaugural issue of the Tulsa Studies journal.

Women and literature (2014.0047)

The Women and Literature series in the Germaine Greer Archive comprises 46 units of material relating to Greer’s research on women writers, poets and translators, and her work as a publisher of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century women poets. The 641 files in this series include annotated drafts of critical work; handwritten notes from manuscript research conducted by Greer and her collaborators and assistants; correspondence relating to the preparation and distribution of publications; and extensive photocopies of manuscript and secondary materials about a large number of women writers. Writers with research files in the collection are primarily eighteenth and nineteenth-century British poets, although other nationalities, genres and time periods are also represented. Chief among these are several early Italian poets. Italian-language research notes and materials, including a battered 1954 edition of Gaspara Stampa’s Rime (2014.0047.00356), testify to Greer’s knowledge of Italy’s literary history, as well as its language.

Audio series (2014.0040)

The Germaine Greer audio series consists of audio recordings that have either been recorded or collected by Greer. The physical collection is made up of 138 magnetic audio cassette tapes, 7 Digital Audio Tapes (DAT), and 3 Mini Discs with a combined total of approximately 153 hours of audio recording.  The cassettes, DAT’s and Mini discs are all contained within their original casings. The collection has been digitised and each record has been time-coded. Audio recordings held on compact cassette tapes include: diaries and travel diaries produced by Greer using a Dictaphone in the 1990s and 2000s, recorded in the UK, Australia, Poland, Cuba, Ethiopia and elsewhere. Material includes: audio interviews conducted by Greer (in Italian) with Federico Fellini (July 1988), Luciano Pavarotti (July 1991) and Primo Levi. Third Party audio content (sent to Greer) features: radio interviews and Greer as a radio presenter; lectures and conference speeches. The earliest examples of audio material within the series are two public appearances recorded while Greer was on her 1971 book tour of the USA in promotion of her book The Female Eunuch. The most recent audio material in the series is a recording captured by Greer in 2010 of a discussion with visual artist Rose Wylie at Wylie’s home. During her visit Greer buys a painting from the artist. This recording was used for an article written by Greer for The Guardian titled, ‘Who is Britain’s hottest new artist? A 76-year-old called Rose Wylie’.

Audiovisual recordings featuring Greer's television and radio appearances (2014.0041)

This series, which is not yet catalogued, contains 240 VHS tapes, 159 DVDs and one reel of black and white 16mm file (outtakes of Germaine Greer and Kenny Everett from a Granada TV production of ‘Nice Time’ recorded in 1969). The Milk outtake can be viewed here. The material is all third party television and radio productions in which Germaine Greer appeared as an interviewee, guest, interviewer or presenter. The earliest material in this series is a 1963 film (It Droppeth Gentle as the Rain) and the most recent is 2014 television and radio appearances relating to the publication of White Beech. A plan for digitising and cataloguing this series is being developed as part of Phase II of the Greer Archive Project.

Correspondence with Publishers (2014.0052)

This series comprises 7 boxes containing 155 folders of correspondence (1970 to 2014) concerning commissioning, editing, publication, promotion and sales of Germaine Greer’s books, from The Female Eunuch (1970) to Lysistrata -the Sex Strike: After Aristophanes (2011). Series 2014.0052 does not contain correspondence about Greer’s latest work, White Beech: The Rainforest Years (2013), for which refer Series 2014.0045: Major Works.

This series provides a well ordered and comprehensive set of records of Greer’s interactions with publishers and includes publishing contracts for various works, usually titled Memorandum of Agreement, many signed and fully executed and correspondence on later editions, foreign rights and translations The series contains five sequences of folders arranged by country or geographical regions: United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Europe and Asia (one sequence) and Australia, within each of which publishers are ordered alphabetically by name.

The earliest items contain correspondence on publication of The Female Eunuch by McGraw-Hill and the latest concern translations, which show the extent of translation of Greer’s works, ebook licences and royalties. The series also contains correspondence on commissioning Greer contributions to other publications, and includes some correspondence about unrealised projects, and other topics, such as seeking Greer’s expert opinion on whether the novel Sarah Miles was written by Charlotte Bronte, not Mary Taylor (Item 2014.0052.00074), and from Carmen Cahill, who in 1978 requested Greer’s opinion on Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip which Virago proposed to publish (Item 2014.0052.00050).

For additional records relating to Greer’s published works see Series 2014.0045: Major Works and Series 2014.0056: Publications by, with contributions by, or about Greer.

Publications by, with contributions by, or about Greer (2014.0056)

This series comprises 13 boxes holding publications written, co-written, edited or with contributions by Germaine Greer. The series also contains books which include content about Greer. The physical collection consists of 124 individual volumes, comprising 58 paperback books, 62 hardcover books and 4 journals, with publication dates from 1970 to 2014.

The series contains 24 titles written, co-written or edited by Germaine Greer. Titles by Greer held in this series are The Female Eunuch (first UK and USA editions (1970), French, German and Arabic translations); The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (1979); Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984); The Mad Woman's Underclothes (1986 hardback and 1987 paperback editions); Shakespeare (Past Masters series) (1986); Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Verse (1988); The Uncollected Verse of Aphra Benn (1989); Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989, 2 copies, one signed by Greer); The Collected Works of Katherine Philips: The Matchless Orinda. Volumes 1, 2, 3 (1990, 1992, 1993); The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991); Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet (1995); The Surviving Works of Anne Wharton (1997); The Whole Woman (1999); John Wilmot: Earl of Rochester (2000); 101 Poems by 101 Women (2001); Poems for Gardeners (2003); The Boy (2003); Quarterly Essay: Whitefella Jump Up: The Shortest Way to Nationhood (2003); Shakespeare’s Wife (2007); On Rage (2008); Lysistrata - the Sex Strike: After Aristophanes (2011, 2 copies); White Beech: The Rainforest Years (2014 edition). The Revolting Garden (1979), written under Greer’s nom de plume, Rose Blight, is not held in this series but can be found in Series 2014.0045: Major Works, Item number 2014.0045.00027.

The majority of items in this series (84, including duplicates of 3 volumes) contain contributions by Greer, including chapters and essays, introductions and forewords, reviews, interviews, articles and extracts from her books reprinted in anthologies. The subjects are diverse and encompass Greer’s scholarly work, political and social commentary, humour and perspectives on popular culture. Most volumes contained a thin strip of paper marking Greer’s entry which has been retained within the volumes. The series contains a small number of items which include mention of Greer, or her milieu. These comprise Let’s Hear It for the Long-Legged Women), the autobiography of Paul du Feu, who was briefly married to Greer in 1968, memoirs by David Plante, Richard Neville and Mick Farren, and an extensively annotated copy of Anne Coombs’ Sex and Anarchy: The Life and Death of the Sydney Push (1996).

Bibliographic metadata has been recorded for each item, including: document type; author; date; publishing location; publisher; physical description; and ISBN, if available using bibliographic listings on OCLC WorldCat (https://www.worldcat.org/). Works can also be searched for using the consistent subject headings tagged to each item. Greer’s specific contributions to volumes (e.g. titles of articles, chapters) have been listed in the item descriptions. Germaine Greer’s detailed curriculum vitae, contained in this series as the final item (2014.0056.00125), is also a source of information on Greer’s publications.

Annotated Reference Publications (2016.0137)

This series comprises 4 boxes holding publications used by Germaine Greer for research and reference purposes throughout her career as a student, academic and writer and publications of significance to her, including volumes given to her by their authors. The physical collection consists of 42 individual items, comprising 36 paperback books, 5 hardcover books and 1 magazine, with publication dates from 1953 to 2011. Of the 42 items, 32 items contain marginalia, annotations, underlining, and/or inscriptions or letters to Greer by the publication author(s). There are two items in languages other than English (French and Italian).

The series includes books that were significant to Greer in researching and writing The Female Eunuch. Selected books include: a proof copy of Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex (1970); Norman O. Brown’s Life Against Death (1968) and Love’s Body (1966); Mary Ellman, Thinking About Women (1969); Erna Wright, Periods without Pain (1966); and a heavily annotated copy of Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1966); Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving (1969); Norman Mailer, Cannibals/Christians (1966). The series also contains volumes of poetry by women poets, including Fran Landesman, Lucy M. Boston, Anne McCosker, Susan Premru, Shelly Geiser, U. A. Fanthorpe, Ann Lauterbach and Heather Brett. In addition, the series contains two items that Greer has identified as textbooks, namely: Robert Frost’s Selected Poems (1955); and John Dryden’s The Poems and Prose of John Dryden (1955).

The inscriptions and letters that accompany the publications have been noted in the item descriptions and shed insight into the personal and social significance of Greer’s work, while revealing the nature and impact of her celebrity. A letter written by Fran Landesman to Greer (interleaved within her poetry book, Songs Without Music, Item 2016.0137.00024) reflects on her experience of reading The Female Eunuch, revealing painful self-insight: “Too late for me…I wonder how I would have been”. Describing herself as “one more female eunuch”, Landesman closes with the hopeful refrain that one day she may meet “some of the post-Greer girls”.

Bibliographic metadata has been recorded for each item, including: document type; author; date; publishing location; publisher; physical description; and ISBN, if available using bibliographic listings on OCLC WorldCat (https://www.worldcat.org/). Works can also be searched for using the consistent subject headings tagged to each item.

Ephemeral publications (2017.0010)

This series comprises three boxes of 20th century ephemeral print publications that are either marginal or radical (or both) in content, format or production style. The earliest record is Germaine Greer’s copy of the first issue of Libertarian, a 40-page red booklet published by Roelof Smilde for the Libertarian Society at Sydney University (1957) while the most recent item is a the third issue of Medusa, the Journal of the Centre for Women and Socialism (1999), a publication primarily in Persian (Farsi). Aside from several folders of journalism estrays, the series is a record of Greer’s eclectic incidental reading and collecting of feminist, punk and anarchist publications (magazines, journals and fanzines). It contains nine copies of Effe, an Italian language feminist magazine published from 1973-1982. There are also 49 fanzines, written, photocopied, published and distributed by young women in the United Kingdom, the United States and Belgium, between about 1993 and 1998, a reminder of the vibrant Riot Grrrl subcultures of that period.

Permissions (2014.0053)

This series comprises 2 boxes of correspondence (1985-2014) concerning requests and authorisations to republish or otherwise use Germaine Greer’s work. The physical collection consists of 25 folders ordered by year. The first 24 folders contain permission requests 1985, 1992, then 1994 to 2014. A final folder (Item 2014.0053.00025) contains correspondence (2013-2014) concerning an Arabic translation of The Female Eunuch by Al-Arabah, a Syrian women’s publishing house. Types of records include authorisations, fees requested and paid, or whether gratis, refusals, correspondence on later editions, foreign rights and translations, electronic publishing and copyright. Requests relate to use of a broad range of Greer material, including her journalism, extracts from her major works, conference papers, Stump Cross Press publications, clips from radio and television appearances, speeches, quotations, photographs of Greer. The diverse uses include reproduction in many anthologies and textbooks, duplication for student resource material, theatre productions, including Changes: A reflection on Germaine Greer's works, a one woman show compiled, written and performed by Barbara Tarbuck, requests for licences to perform Lysistrata (the translation of the Aristophanes play prepared with additional dialogue by Phil Willmott), reproduction of Greer quotations in many contexts, such as scripts, art works and the built environment. The series provides evidence of subsequent uses of Greer’s intellectual property and the continuing influence and reach of her writing, and of Greer herself, in both scholarly and popular contexts. The series also confirms the iconic status of The Female Eunuch, requests to reproduce extracts, quote from, or otherwise use her best-selling book appearing in most years.

Correspondence with Libraries (2017.0004)

This series comprises 3 boxes of material (1966-2014), primarily seeking permission to reproduce library collection material and organising visits to, speaking engagements at, and membership of libraries. Greer’s position on the board of the London Library and her involvement with the British Library Regular Readers Group’s protests about the new British Library building at St. Pancras are also well-represented in the collection.  The 79 folders in this series include handwritten and typed correspondence, printed emails, faxes, postcards, and photo reproduction forms. Photocopies and transcripts of manuscripts and secondary resources testify to the series’ relationship with the Women and Literature Series, Series 2014.0047, with the last six files in the series originally part of Women and Literature. The series also contains the volume The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, ed. Jeremy Treglown, published in 1980, with Greer’s own handwritten annotations (held at 2017.0004.00037). Greer has a sustained and even reverential relationship with libraries and archives. In her own words, ‘Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy’ (Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, 70). This series provides clear evidence of this via Greer’s retention of numerous pieces of library-related ephemera, including library cards dating back to 1966 (held at 2017.0004.00045), and informational pamphlets and brochures and readers’ rules from many of the libraries she visited. The series also holds copies of journals and magazines produced by libraries, including an incomplete run of The Female Spectator, published by Chawton House Library and several issues of Upfront, the journal of the friends and supporters of the State Library of New South Wales.