Title and statement of responsibility area
Peter Buitenhuis fonds
General material designation
- Photographic material
- Textual record
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- Source of title proper: Title is based on the name of of the fonds creator.
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1955 - 2005 (Creation)
- Buitenhuis, Peter
Physical description area
88 cm of textual records
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Peter Martinus Buitenhuis (1925-2004), English professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University (SFU), was a prolific scholarly writer and literary critic. His academic career—which included teaching positions at Yale University, University of Toronto, McGill University, and University of California at Berkeley—saw the production of numerous books, articles, and reviews, including works on Henry James, E.J. Pratt, and Hugh MacLennan. Buitenhuis also conducted research and wrote on various topics pertaining to propaganda and World Wars I and II.
Of Dutch ancestry, Buitenhuis was born in Ilford Essex, England on December 8, 1925. He married three times and had seven children. With his first wife, Patricia (nee White), he had three children, Paul, Penelope, and Pym; with his second wife, Elspeth Fisher (nee Cameron), he had two children, Beatrix and Hugo; and with his third wife, Ann Cowan (nee Stephenson), he had two children, Juliana and Adrian.
In December 1943, Buitenhuis left his job as a bank clerk and enlisted in the Royal Navy. From 1943-1946, he was commissioned to several different ships, including the H.M.S. Beehive, where he served as a Navigating Officer in Coastal Forces, conducting anti-submarine and minesweeping duties in the English Channel and North Sea (1944-1945). After his time on the Beehive, Buitenhuis spent a short period in the Admiralty. In 1946, he was appointed as a navigational officer on H.M.S. Starling, where he served until his release from the Navy later that year. Buitenhuis received the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, and the Victory Medal.
Buitenhuis left the Navy to attend Jesus College at Oxford University on a veteran’s grant (1946). There he earned a BA and an MA in English language and literature. In Buitenhuis’s last year of studies, a professor from the University of Oklahoma (U of O) recruited him to teach English, thus enticing Buitenhuis to immigrate to the United States.
Buitenhuis taught at the U of O until 1951, at which time he left his position in response to an investigation by an Oklahoma legislature committee. The committee was putting pressure on the university’s employees to sign a loyalty oath to the constitution of the United States and to the constitution of Oklahoma State. Buitenhuis, neither interested in staying in Oklahoma nor signing the oath, went on to Yale University to pursue a PhD in American Studies, where he wrote his thesis on Henry James. After completing his degree, Buitenhuis stayed on at Yale’s American Studies Department to teach (1955-1959).
In 1959, Buitenhuis left Yale and immigrated to Canada, after receiving an invitation from Northrop Frye—then the chairman of the English Department at Victoria College in the University of Toronto—to teach at the College. He became a Canadian citizen c.1960, while still retaining his British citizenship.
While at Victoria College, in 1963, Buitenhuis joined with fellow Americanists from other Canadian universities to form the first American Studies association in Canada, the Canadian Association of American Studies.
Buitenhuis worked at the College as an associate professor until 1966, when he took a year to teach at the University of California (Berkley) as a visiting professor. In 1967, Buitenhuis returned to Canada to take a position at McGill University in Montreal. After several years at McGill, in 1975, Buitenhuis accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of English at Simon Fraser University (1975-1981) and moved to Vancouver.
Buitenhuis remained at SFU until his retirement in 1992. In that time, he not only taught in the Department of English, but was also the Associate Director in SFU’s Centre for Canadian Studies (1987-1988). He continued to teach literature well after his retirement through SFU’s Continuing Studies Department, and was still teaching until shortly before his death. Buitenhuis passed away on November 28, 2004.
Buitenhuis remained an active scholar, book reviewer, and writer throughout his life. Included in his many literature reviews and scholarly articles are several books, including E.J. Pratt and His Works; Five American Moderns: Mary McCarthy, Stephen Crane, J.D. Salinger, Eugene O’Neill, and H.L. Mencken; The Grasping Imagination: The American Writings of Henry James; The Great War of Words: British, American, and Canadian Propaganda and Fiction, 1914-1933; and The House of Seven Gables: Severing Family and Colonial Ties. Buitenhuis also completed a manuscript just weeks before his death titled, Empires of the Mind: British Authors' Roles in World War II.
Buitenhuis’s literary and academic career brought him into contact with many well-known authors, including Margaret Atwood, Northrop Frye, Timothy Findley, Thomas Wolfe, and Scott Symons.
Peter M. Buitenhuis's records were in his custody until his death in 2004. His widow, Ann Cowan, maintained custody of the records until she donated them to Simon Fraser University Archives in 2010.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records relating to the personal and academic life of Peter M. Buitenhuis. Activities, topics, and events documented include course planning and instruction; academic conference attendance and presentations; Buitenhuis's research, writing, and publications; his social life and relationships; and his death and memorial.
Records include correspondence; research notes; class and lecture notes; lesson plans, course syllabi, reading lists, and course work; photographs; manuscripts, publications, literary reviews, articles, and newspaper clippings.
Immediate source of acquisition
The records were donated to the Simon Fraser University Archives by Buitenhuis's widow, Ann Cowan, in 2010.
The material was arranged by the archivist into series based on the personal and professional activities of Peter Buitenhuis.
Language of material
Script of material
Location of originals
Availability of other formats
Restrictions on access
Most of the files in the fonds are open with no restrictions. However, some files may contain personal student information and access to these files may be restricted as stipulated by Archives policy. Also, some original materials have been removed from files and replaced by photcopies. Please see the file lists and consult the archivist for more details.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
File and item lists are available for each series.
As of December 2010 all accessioned materials have been processed. No further accruals are expected.
Physical description: 2 photographs located in F-242-3-1-10
Standard number area
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- World War (Subject)
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Finding aid prepared by Marcia Beacham Fuller (December 2010).