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The Joel Conarroe Collection of Philip Roth Material

Identifier: PR2

Scope and Contents

“ … in the final stages of writing a novel, Roth likes to get as much criticism and response as he can from a few interested readers.”6

This collection consists primarily of photocopies of draft manuscripts — written by American writer Philip Roth — which Roth sent to his long-time friend Joel Conarroe over the course of 26 years. Many of the drafts were heavily edited by Roth. Some of the drafts include a few comments, questions or edits by Conarroe. In this collection drafts and typescripts of The Anatomy Lesson, and drafts of The Ghostwriter and chapter 1 of Sabbath’s Theater are the most heavily edited.

Also included in the collection are several brief notes from Roth to Conarroe that accompanied drafts of three works:

The Anatomy Lesson January 1983: These are sketches for revised ending. Chapters 4 and 5. (replaces old 4, 5, & 6) In addition: remove, in chapter 3, from paragraph 2 of 3-29 to bottom of 3-38. (All brother material goes.) In addition insert chapter 3, page 3-19-3-20 enclosed. (Box 1, Folder 10) March 1983: Any questions, speak with Veronica Geng. This is edited version I plan to take back to London to use to finish up. All corrections & changes stand. (Box 1, Folder 15)

I Married a Communist: Mistake. Please remove and destroy pages 31-53 of the Chapter 7 I sent you. Replace with pages 31-50 of Chapter 7 that are enclosed. (Box 3, Folder 9)

Patrimony. Feb. 6, 1989: Dear Joel: Would you put these pages with the last draft of the ms. I sent you. No need to insert them; just put this envelope with the other. I don’t want to have the only copy. Yours,” (Box 3, Folder 11) Feb. 8, 1989: Dear Joel: Please put this envelope with the others, alongside the ms. of Patrimony. Philip (Box 3, Folder 12)

Philip Roth-related artifacts in the collection include one black T-shirt (size large with image of inaugural Yaddo Artist Medal given to Philip Roth in 2014) and 2 buttons (Philip Roth at 80).

6. Lee, Hermione. “Philip Roth, The Art of Fiction, N. 84.” The Paris Review Issue 93, Fall 1984. Web, March 2017.


  • 1982 - 2019


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied or photographed without permission from library staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

Professor, editor and foundation president Joel Osborne Conarroe (b. 1934) and American writer Philip Milton Roth (b. 1933) met in the mid-1960s when both were teaching literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Their friendship lasts until this day and is memorialized with a line in the lengthy chronology within the Library of America’s editions of Roth’s collected work: “1965: [Roth] begins to teach comparative literature at University of Pennsylvania. Meets professor Joel Conarroe, who becomes a close friend”1 and in the dedication of Roth’s 2006 novel Everyman “To J.C.”2

Conarroe, a graduate of Davidson College (BA 1956), Cornell University (MA 1957) and NYU (PhD 1966), was a freshly minted PhD when he began his academic career at Penn. His studies had been interrupted only briefly with a tour of duty in the United States Army (1957-1958). Roth, a graduate of Bucknell University (BA 1954) and the University of Chicago (MA 1955), planned to pursue further graduate studies after his stint in the army (1955-1956). Roth did enter the PhD program at the University of Chicago, but withdrew almost immediately. Despite leaving the PhD program within a semester, Roth continued as an instructor in the University of Chicago English department for two years.

The success of Roth’s first novel, Goodbye, Columbus (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959), which won the National Book Award among other accolades, propelled him toward a career as a writer. Over the years Roth taught briefly at several universities and writing programs. His longest stretch of teaching, however, was at Penn (1965-1980). According to Conarroe, Roth had an “extraordinary capacity as a teacher … a terrific rapport with students.”3

Both Conarroe, the son of Elvin Conarroe and the former Elizabeth Lofland, and Roth, the son of Herman Roth and the former Bess Finkel, are natives of New Jersey. Roth was born and raised in the city of Newark, the setting for many of his novels; Conarroe grew up twenty miles northwest of Newark in the suburban Borough of Mountain Lakes. Their fathers were insurance men. Elvin Conarroe was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, an “expert accountant for industrial firms” and an executive of Metropolitan Life in New York. He dropped dead at his New York office in 1953 at the age of 57.4 Herman Roth, with a less formal education, fought anti-semitism to rise from salesman to district manager over the course of his career, also at Metropolitan Life.

Conarroe's career trajectory was that of a successful academic. At Penn he advanced from assistant professor to Chair of the English Department within seven years, and for two years was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. During his time at Penn Conarroe served also as Executive Director of the Modern Languages Association(1978-1983) and editor of PMLA. In 1985 Conarroe left Penn to become President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a position he held until 2002. Throughout his career Conarroe has written and edited books and articles about American poetry and fiction. He has also chaired the National Book Awards and served as president of the PEN American Center.

Roth’s success obviously was as a writer. He has written nearly thirty novels as well as numerous short stories, essays and reviews; several of his novels have been adapted as movies. A few of his many awards include The National Book Award in 1960 and 1995 (Goodbye Columbus and Sabbath’s Theater, respectively); the Pulitzer Prize, 1998 (American Pastoral); the National Medal of Arts, 2002; and the National Humanities Medal and the Man Booker International Prize, both in 2011.

Count Conarroe among Roth’s many fans: "Ten years ago, I would have said it was a toss-up between Updike and Roth [regarding the Nobel Prize] … Today, I'd say he's certainly the most deserving of the Nobel Prize in America. I put him in a class with Bellow, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner. I know that sounds extreme. But both in terms of quality of work and productivity, he simply has no peer right now. He's the king of the cats.”5

For a more thorough biography of Philip Roth and a complete list of his works, see The Philip Roth Society (unaffiliated with Philip Roth):


3.34 Linear Feet (8 document boxes; 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



This collection consists primarily of photocopies of draft manuscripts — written by American writer Philip Roth — which Roth sent to his long-time friend Joel Conarroe over the course of 26 years. Many of the drafts were heavily edited by Roth. Some of the drafts include a few comments, questions or edits by Conarroe. Also included in the collection are several brief notes from Roth to Conarroe with instructions for replacing or substituting various pages. Additional materials (signed books, a poster, and two letters) were donated on June 22, 2021 and on May 4, 2022.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Joel Conarroe, 2017. Additional materials donated on June 22, 2021 and May 4, 2022.

Related Materials

Philip Roth Papers Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Physical Description

textual material, artifacts

Processing Information

Processed by Alix Ross, June 2017. Additional gifts were processed by Nadine Sergejeff, June 2021 and May 2022.


The Joel Conarroe Collection of Philip Roth Material
Alix Ross
Language of description
Script of description
Code for unwritten documents

Repository Details

Part of the Philip Roth Personal Library Repository

5 Washington St
Newark NJ 07102