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The Papers of George Steiner

Reference Code: GBR/0014/GSNR

Scope and Contents

The material held at Churchill Archives Centre comprises Professor Steiner’s personal papers. They include papers of his wife Dr Zara Steiner and his children David and Deborah Steiner. They are predominantly in English with some French. They consist of correspondence with Professor Steiner’s parents Dr Frederick Steiner and Mrs Else Steiner, other correspondence, memorabilia and scrapbooks. There is also an extensive collection of press cuttings, and a small number of family photographs.


  • Creation: 1929 - 1997


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Individual closures are marked in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Professor George Steiner has assigned the copyrights he owns in this material to Churchill College.

Biographical / Historical

(Francis) George Steiner (who has not used the name Francis since his undergraduate days), was born in Paris, France, on 23 April 1929; the son of Dr Frederick George and Mrs Else Steiner. He was educated first at the Lycée in Paris and then at the French Lycée in New York after the family moved to America in 1940. He gained a BA from the University of Chicago, an MA from Harvard and a DPhil from Oxford (Balliol College, of which he became an Honorary Fellow in 1995). In 1955 he married Zara Shakow, to whom he had been introduced by friends in 1952. They have one son (David) and one daughter (Deborah).

Steiner had been active on undergraduate publications while at University and in 1952 he joined the staff of The Economist, in London, (1952-56). He returned to America in 1956 to attend the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, (1956-58) where he also lectured (1959-60). He held a Fulbright professorship in Innsbruck (1958-59), and in 1961 became a Founding Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, to which he was elected an Extraordinary Fellow in 1969. In 1974, after several years as a freelance writer and occasional lecturer, he accepted the post of Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva, which he held until 1994, becoming Professor Emeritus on his retirement. He has since held the positions of Weidenfeld Professor of Comparative Literature and Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, (1994-95) and Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard (2001-02).

Steiner’s career has been graced by many honours including a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1971-72 and Honorary Membership of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, 1989. He has received an Hon. DLitt from the following Universities: East Anglia, 1976; Louvain, 1980; Mount Holyoke College, USA, 1983; Bristol, 1989; Glasgow, 1990; Liège, 1990; Ulster, 1993; Durham, 1995. In 1984 Steiner, who was French citizen from 1929-1944, was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. In 1998 he was awarded the Truman Capote Lifetime Achievement Award by Stanford University and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. He has also won numerous awards for his fiction and poetry. George Steiner died on 3 February 2020.

Publications include: Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, 1958; The Death of Tragedy, 1960; Anno Domini, 1964; Language and Silence, 1967; Extraterritorial, 1971; In Bluebeard’s Castle, 1971; The Sporting Scene: White Knights in Reykjavik, 1973; After Babel, 1975 (adapted for TV as The Tongues of Men, 1977); Heidegger, 1978; On Difficulty and Other Essays, 1978; The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., 1981; Antigones, 1984; George Steiner: a reader, 1984; Real Presences: is there anything in what we say?, 1989; Proofs and Three Parables, 1992; Errata: An examined life, 1997; Grammars of Creation, 2001.


8 archive box(es) : paper

Language of Materials




The collection was originally mixed with the papers of Dr Frederick George Steiner (now a separate collection). The correspondence in this collection was loosely arranged by date. Other papers were not arranged. Arrangement has therefore been imposed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were received by Churchill Archives Centre from Professor George Steiner, in 2000 and 2016.

Related Materials

Churchill Archives Centre also holds the papers of Steiner's father, Dr Frederick George Steiner (reference code STNR).


This collection (fonds) level of description and catalogue was prepared by Averil Condren for Churchill Archives Centre in 2001. Information was obtained from Steiner's entry in Who's Who 1897-1996 (A and C Black), the Harvard Gazette (27.09.01) his writings and from the papers.


Steiner, Francis George, 1929-2020, professor of comparative literature, philosopher, critic.

2002-01-22 14:29:27+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087