Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Josephine Miles Papers
BANC MSS 86/107 c  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Additional Notes on Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Josephine Miles Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1911-1986
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 86/107 c
    Creator: Miles, Josephine, 1911-
    Extent: Number of containers: 13 boxes, 9 cartons, 4 volumes, 1 oversize box, 5 oversize folders Linear feet: 18.0
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: The Josephine Miles Papers, 1911-1986, consisting of correspondence and literary manuscripts, as well as a small amount of professional, personal, and family papers, are a thorough representation of the varied interests of this highly regarded poet, scholar, and educator.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Josephine Miles Papers, BANC MSS 86/107 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Separated Material

    Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Miles, Josephine, 1911- --Archives.
    University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of English--Faculty.
    Women poets, American--20th century.
    Poets, American--20th century.
    Poetry, Modern--20th century.
    Women college teachers--United States--Biography.
    Musical works.
    Lecture notes.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Josephine Miles Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Miss Miles during the years 1974-1983, and by her estate on September 24, 1985.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Jane Phillips; revised and completed by Sarah Kanafani and Kimberly Tarr in September 2000, under the supervision of Linda Jordan.


    Josephine Miles was born in Chicago on June 11, 1911 to Reginald Odber and Josephine Lackner Miles. Her father was of British ancestory and traced his decendants to the Mayflower; her mother migrated as a child from Germany and graduated from the University of Chicago. Josephine had two brothers, Richard B. and John O. Miles. Born with a dislocated hip that did not receive proper treatment, she suffered from severely crippling rheumatoid arthritis. When the arthritis worsened a couple of years later, the family moved to southern California. Josephine's grammar school career was so haphazard, she credited her mother with teaching her to read and write.
    Miles graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA in 1932, and received her M.A. (1934) and Ph.D. (1938) from UC, Berkeley. At the age of twenty five, she won her first national prize for poetry, the Shelley Award, and her first book, Lines at Intersection was accepted for publication by Macmillan and Company. Miss Miles joined the English Department at UC Berkeley in 1940, won tenure in 1947, and was appointed University Professor in 1972. She was the first, and for many years the only, woman on the department faculty.
    "Jo" Miles was one of the early architects of the Department of English's current curriculum, particularly in composition. Her "Prose Improvement Project" during the 1950s brought English Dept. teaching assistants together with those of 15 other departments in a broad effort to improve undergraduate's writing all over the campus. Her students have published more than 50 volumes of poems and won at least two national book awards. Miles methods helped form the Bay Area Writing Project, later renamed the California Writing Project, which trains teachers how best to teach writing.
    Throughout her career, Miss Miles received many awards and much recognition, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1948. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science in 1964, and selected by her colleagues to fill the prestigious post of faculty research lecturer in 1975-76. In 1977, a committee of the Academic Senate gave her a distinguished teaching award. Collected Poems, 1930-1983, won The Nation magazine's Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the book was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. In 1984, Miss Miles was the first writer to be honored by the Bay Area Book Reviewers with the Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement.
    Even after her retirement in 1978, Miles' home on Virginia Street, just north of the campus, remained a center of literary activity and many came to see the teacher, poet, and intensely involved member of the university community. Josephine Miles died of pneumonia at her home in Berkeley on May 12, 1985, at the age of 73.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Josephine Miles Papers, 1911-1986, consisting of correspondence and literary manuscripts, as well as a small amount of professional, personal, and family papers, are a thorough representation of the varied interests of this highly regarded poet, scholar, and educator.
    The collection contains extensive correspondence, and includes letters from James Dickey, Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, and Wallace Stegner. Her manuscript material, some never published, includes poetry collections, prose, plays, articles, and individual poems, as well as a large collection of poetry notebooks, spanning her adult life. The bulk of the collection consists chiefly of Miss Miles' literary manuscripts, in various stages of completion, including her first poetry collection, Lines At Intersection, as well as her scholarly analysis, The Ways of the Poem. Individual poems number in the hundreds, while her word count studies, a method she devised to analyze the vocabulary of specific poets, are also included. A small amount of literary business papers and her numerous awards complete her literary career.
    Miss Miles' teaching career and participation in activities on the University of California, Berkeley campus are also well documented. Numerous awards reflect her strong commitment to teaching as well as her literary talent. Miss Miles' own relationship as a student with the University of California is also fully documented, including her undergraduate and graduate work. A small amount of family correspondence and other personal papers completes the collection.

    Additional Notes on Collection

    Consolidated from papers received from the estate of Josephine Miles in 1986 and various groups of additions to the initial collection, BANC MSS C-H 34. Earlier additions formerly shelved under the following accession numbers: 75/34 c, 80/137 c, 82/129 c, 84/29 c, 83/138 c.