Category Archives: Libraries & Archives

“[I]n language strange”: Using Omeka to Bring (Digital) Archives to the Classroom

Students in survey poetry courses often encounter poems in anthologies. Poetry anthologies are comparatively inexpensive and well edited, and they offer an eclectic mix of brilliant work from a diverse set of authors. Much like the poems they contain, though, anthologies themselves can become sites of deep critical inquiry and fantastic resources for instructors wishing to train students on matters of book history and editorial practices. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy’s The Norton Anthology of Poetry (2005) offers a case in point: the decisions that the editors made when presenting John Keats’s famous ballad, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” reveal some of the difficult choices that editors must make when compiling an anthology, and become an occasion for exploring the competing versions of Keats’s poem and the ways in which historical and contemporary editors have shaped its meaning.

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NASSR 2016 Rapid Response: Final Day!

Sunday’s Tweets about NASSR 2016 via Storify

So here we are, at the end of NASSR 2016, with all of us likely traveling across the U.S. and Canada this evening, or on our way across the Atlantic or Pacific, heading back to our home institutions. Hopefully we’re re-invigorated with an exceptional amount of insight, inspiration, and innovation that will carry into our research and teaching over this coming academic year.

For me, today’s panels provided a surprising amount of vim and vigor on this, the final morning of our annual conference. When I imagine the Sunday morning of any conference, I envision a small gaggle of weary academics dragging their feet and their suitcases to the free morning coffee buffet before plopping in their seats to process, with half-closed eyelids, the final papers that our poor presenters must still deliver after the three action-packed days. To my pleasant surprise, however, both rooms were animated, engaged, and quite lively! Here’s some of what I heard…  Continue reading NASSR 2016 Rapid Response: Final Day!

Paper Consciousness: Professor Deidre Lynch Performs a “Bookish Ontology” on the Nineteenth-Century Album

Recently the English department at UW-Madison hosted Professor Deidre Lynch of Harvard to present new work that appears to evolve from her last publication Loving Literature: A Cultural History (2015, Chicago UP). You should recognize the guest lecturer as one of the most influence contributors to 19th c. and Romantic studies. Earlier works remain frequently cited in contemporary scholarship, most notably her work on Austen and The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Cultural and the Business of Inner Meaning (1998). In consideration of blog readers interests in book history, archival methods, material culture, and all things 19th c. I’ve provide a brief summary of the talk title “Paper Slips: The Nineteenth-Century Album and Other Misadventures in Book-keeping” and offer comments on how the work Prof. Lynch presented could inspire scholarship to come, or at least re-think what we write in our diaries.

Continue reading Paper Consciousness: Professor Deidre Lynch Performs a “Bookish Ontology” on the Nineteenth-Century Album

Fangirl(s): Lord Byron edition

I’ll seize any chance I can get to talk about Lord Byron’s fan letters – and with the somewhat flimsy excuse of the 224th anniversary of the publication of Cantos I &II of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage just around the corner (March 20, to be exact), now seems like a perfect time. Lord Byron received fan letters? Of course he did!

replica by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, circa 1835 (1813)(1813 portrait of Byron in Albanian dress, by John Phillips)

Continue reading Fangirl(s): Lord Byron edition

Ethics & The Archive

This short post was occasioned by a conversation NGSC blog contributor Andrew Welch and I shared on the ethics of archival research while working together over coffee in Chicago this week. Indeed, and because so many of us are engaged not only in grappling with the historical documents that archives provide in support of our research, but also are actively engaged in thinking through the implications of  archival research in terms of travel, the extensive financial resources needed, and the like, I imagined transposing the significant ideas that emerged might be beneficial to readers. Continue reading Ethics & The Archive

Summer Camp for Library Types: A Week at Rare Book School

lion“Go be smart. Don’t forget to wash your hands.” These two pieces of wisdom, spoken by RBS Director Michael Suarez, marked the end of daily mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks during my week at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. This thirty-year-old program encompasses the love and care of books from a myriad of different angles: collecting, cataloging, reading/transcribing/interpreting, identifying and describing, even binding and printing. The list goes on, all courses focused on developing the skills of librarians, collectors, editors, booksellers, conservators, and scholars through the historical study of books and how we make them accessible. One course, five days, 6+ hours per day of non-stop book-talk. No water, unwashed hands, or writing utensils other than pencils allowed in any of the classrooms: a classroom treated like an archive, or an archive treated like a classroom. In other words, heaven for book lovers like me. Continue reading Summer Camp for Library Types: A Week at Rare Book School

Austen’s Names and Romantic Espionage

I was very excited to hear about Margaret Doody’s new book, Jane Austen’s Names: Riddles, Persons, Places (University of Chicago Press, April 2015). In this text, Doody traces the etymological contexts for the nomenclature of each of Austen’s characters, while exposing curious patterns of naming throughout her corpus. Who knew that Austen’s Marys were uniformly negative, or that, with the name “Fitzwilliam,” Mr Darcy naturally followed as the inheritor of William Collins’s suit for Elizabeth’s hand?

Margaret Doody, "Austen's Names" (2015)
Margaret Doody, “Austen’s Names” (2015)

When I peeked into the book itself, I was impressed with the etymological research, and I was inspired to think about how the names could be explained further with historical correlatives. The Romantic-era histories behind the names give the characters even more flair, while showing Austen’s awareness of some of the most fraught and intriguing  elements of English public life — including espionage.   Continue reading Austen’s Names and Romantic Espionage

Guest Post: A “Radiant” Digital Edition of Wordsworth’s Prelude?

By Peter N. Miller

Dedicated readers of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude must at some point grapple with the disconcerting question of which version of the poem they’re looking at.

In 1799 Wordsworth produced a fair-copy manuscript of what would later be called The Two-Part Prelude. Between 1801 and 1805 the poet drastically revised this material to create a longer autobiographical poem, which consisted at various points of five books, eight books, and thirteen books. Wordsworth continued to revise the work over the coming decades, breaking Book 10 in two in 1829 to create a fourteen-book Prelude. His most substantial final revisions came in 1839, yet the poem was still not published, in any form, until shortly after the poet’s death, in 1850. To confuse matters further, Wordsworth never actually called The Prelude by that name. For him it was always “the poem to Coleridge.” The poet’s widow, Mary Hutchinson, suggested the title The Prelude. There is not a poem called The Prelude, it would seem, but multiple poems, each with a certain claim to legitimacy. Continue reading Guest Post: A “Radiant” Digital Edition of Wordsworth’s Prelude?

Guest Post: Another Kind of “Gentlemen’s Club”: A Brief Illustrated History of an Institution

By Katherine Magyarody

Cirque du soleilThe contemporary gentlemen’s club may be encapsulated in the image of scantily clad women performing impressive acrobatic routines in front of a beery audience rather less capable of similar athleticism in a windowless building that clings to the seedier edges of town. It seems a fine irony that these strip joints, with their sticky, slick furniture, skewed sexual voyeurism and spilt beer take their moniker from establishments adjoining London’s centre of power, which excluded women, and had large windows from which the elite could watch the world outside without being seen.

Our modern gentleman’s club’s idea of the gentleman is as flat as its beer and as restricted as a bouncer’s facial expressions. There is a much more interesting story to be told, one that tracks the evolution of masculinity and gentility throughout the nineteenth century while touching on wider patterns of socialization. Continue reading Guest Post: Another Kind of “Gentlemen’s Club”: A Brief Illustrated History of an Institution

Of Mountains and Media: Versions of the Sublime

A few years ago I got a chance to see Marc Handelman’s Archive for a Mountain in person, and it got me thinking about the category of the sublime in a new way. The conceit of the work is straightforward–Handelman assembled into a single book every piece of data he could find about the Untersberg–but the product is impressive. Weighing in at a hefty 740 archival-quality pages of maps, images, brochures, essays, scanned microfilm, screenshots of Wikipedia entries, and more, the book has an excessive materiality of its own. But it also—in the way it inevitably provokes us to imagine even more material that might have been included—foregrounds the incredible constrictions that are necessarily imposed upon any subject in the process of representation, even in those renderings that we are tempted to label exhaustive or comprehensive. Its gesture towards a kind of vast and awe-inspiring archival noumenal that exists beyond the capacity of any single human or technological interface to represent it (as well as its mapping of this limit onto such a traditional representative of sublime Nature) seems distinct to me from other contemporary notions of the sublime, and actually seems to hearken back to the original problematic of the eighteenth-century sublime: how to represent a mountain?

Continue reading Of Mountains and Media: Versions of the Sublime