2015–16 RBS-UVA Fellows
The RBS-UVA Fellowship provides undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Virginia with scholarships to attend RBS courses that substantially inform year-long projects (viz., a Distinguished Major’s thesis, an article, a dissertation chapter, an exhibition) that they submit to RBS upon completion. The 2015–16 cohort of RBS-UVA Fellows includes:
- Jennifer Camp – Ph.D. student, McIntire Department of Art
- Peter Chekin – Ph.D. student, Department of French
- Elizabeth Doe – Ph.D. student, McIntire Department of Art
- Carol Guarnieri – Ph.D. student, Department of English
- Christian Howard – Ph.D. student, Department of English
- Peter Miller – Ph.D. student, Department of English
**Recipient of the 2015–16 Betsy and Stuart Houston Prize — click here to see Peter’s project**
- Evan Waters – Ph.D. student, Department of Classics
My project for the RBS-UVA Fellowship is an essay entitled “Reading Lynd Ward’s Prelude to a Million Years.” I propose two “readings” of American artist Lynd Ward’s fourth “woodcut novel,” published in 1933 by Ward’s Equinox Cooperative Press, a small independent press founded by Ward and several colleagues. This wordless pictorial narrative, consisting of a series of 31 wood engravings carefully printed and bound by hand, demonstrates a faith in the artisanal hand-crafted object as an harbinger of social well-being. At the same time, this work radically questions the nature of authorship and the relationship between reader and story. This essay could not have been possible without the insights and guidance received during my time spent in Johanna Drucker’s Rare Book School course, Modern Art of the Book. In her course, Drucker discussed the ways in which artists from the nineteenth through the twentieth centuries deliberately intervened into the theory and aesthetics of the codex form. The knowledge gained about the fine and independent press movements, the humanist revival in printing, avant-garde experiments with the book as a medium, and postmodern artists’ books was invaluable for thinking about the ways in which Ward’s woodcut novels should be positioned within the history of art. Crucially, Drucker’s course helped me rethink the fundamental questions that should be asked when books are approached as art objects.
The paleographic training that I received during Consuelo Dutschke’s Introduction to Paleography, 800–1500 Rare Book School course during the summer of 2015 provided me with paleographic practice and skills that have turned out to be very useful in a broad sense. This is true both in terms of my improved ability to access and analyze medieval manuscript texts and in the recognition of the limitations that paleographers and must face (some of which may be overcome with codicologists’ help; these limitations can include the precise dates of manuscripts, which are often a matter of inference). In the case of the Vie de saint Alexis, the eleventh-century Old French saint’s Life that is the subject of part of my dissertation and whose Paris manuscript the object of the edition that I have produced as part of my RBS fellowship, Dr. Dutschke’s course has instead granted me a facility with reading medieval manuscripts that I did not have before, especially when it comes to deciphering the various abbreviations that abound in the Latin-script manuscripts of the middle ages. The Paris manuscript features quite a number of these, which often represent clever attempts to adapt language conventions developed for Latin to a vernacular French manuscript. As my research takes a linguistic turn—I am increasingly interested in the conceptual boundaries between medieval Latin and the vernacular—this is a feature of the text that I would like to explore in the future in this new light. I am grateful to Dr. Dutschke for sharing her knowledge with me, and to Rare Book School for its generosity in awarding me a 2015–16 RBS-UVA Fellowship, thereby encouraging me in a research project that will be central to my dissertation.
My paper addresses a series of urban etchings by Martin Lewis to examine how his appropriation of nineteenth-century illustrative techniques stages an encounter between the gaze of the beholder and the agency of the ambulatory flâneuse depicted. By investigating the first appearance of the flâneur in nineteenth-century Parisian illustrations and prints, I place Lewis’s formally self-conscious etchings in a more comprehensive iconographic and technical tradition. My paper uses questions of gender and materiality to catalyze a study of Lewis’s urban sidewalks, noting how the women he depicts activate the fluid identification of the beholder. Both wander, both gaze, and both record the fictive map of urban space, transcribing the city by foot or recording its contours with a burin.
The Rare Book School course The History of Printed Book Illustration in the West with Erin Blake significantly informed the direction of this research and my examination of specific nineteenth and twentieth-century case studies. My exposure to a wide range of illustration techniques in the RBS course honed my eye and equipped me with the necessary tools to pursue independent technical analysis. Nineteenth-century etching techniques continue to play a vital role in my dissertation research, and I am grateful for my thorough RBS training as I begin archival work this summer.
While my RBS experience was a highly positive one, the gains for my project were largely negative: that is, I learned a lot about what I cannot know about the book history of my chosen topic, and how to navigate absences in the historical record.
I took James Green’s course, The History of the Book in America, c.1700–1830, held at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The course amply fulfilled my desire to gain background knowledge about early American print culture that would undergird claims I make in my dissertation on transatlantic eighteenth-century literature. Contrary to my assumptions that I could easily trace the printer for works that appeared in the American colonies, I learned how chaotic the history of printing was in early America. I learned that most printing in the colonies consisted in reprinting books that had already been printed in England, and that American book culture was at first made up almost entirely of books imported from overseas. This was particularly the case in the West Indian colonies, the focus of my work, where wealthy planters could afford the expense of importation. I learned as well the necessity of distinguishing book reading from book ownership in the colonies. My project concerns novelistic depictions of the Caribbean colonies, and the RBS course helped me better understand the culture of novel reading in the American colonies, to the extent that it existed. The course helpfully limned the contours of the sorts of arguments I might make about the place of the novels under consideration in my dissertation within the wider eighteenth-century transatlantic book culture.
My RBS-UVA project is a draft of my first dissertation chapter, “The Jamaica Lady and the Rise of the Novel.” My dissertation project engages with an archive of novels of the long eighteenth century that narrate British encounters with the colonial Caribbean: it argues that attention to these Caribbean tales offers new possibilities for understanding the way the novel form has imaginatively constructed the British subject. My first chapter situates a short novel about creole characters, The Jamaica Lady; or, The Life of Bavia (1720), against scholarly histories of the novel in order to demonstrate how the British Caribbean novel illuminates and complicates these histories. After James Green’s course, nonetheless, I feel much better equipped to navigate the archive of early American printed materials. I plan to compile a scholarly edition of The Jamaica Lady, and the knowledge I gained in this course is an
essential piece of the background I need in order to feel confident in doing justice to this work.
2015–16 RBS-UVA Fellowship Project Honorable Mention
Ph.D. student, Department of English
Recreating Faulkner’s Fictional World: The Publication of the Chronology and Genealogy in Absalom, Absalom!
William Faulkner’s has been described as a “dense literary texture,” a weaving together of intricate narratives through a complex style that registers the minutiae of grammar and typography (Hortense Spillers). My project seeks to mine this dense literary texture by focusing specifically upon the appendix to Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, which is comprised of a chronology, genealogy, and map. While these end materials have generally been considered “mer[e] aids to the reader” (Noel Polk), I argue that the publication history and formal features of the chronology and genealogy suggest that they are instead essential, non-supplementary components of Faulkner’s story-worlds. Even as it has necessitated an examination of Faulkner’s correspondence with his editors housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, this research has built upon the knowledge of publishing history that I learned from my time at the Rare Book School.
The course that I took through RBS, The History of 19th- & 20th-Century Typography & Printing, provided an essential historical overview that addressed the technological and cultural contexts of typography and printing. Taught by John Kristensen and Katherine Ruffin, this course supplemented theoretical discussions with valuable hands-on experience using RBS’s Vandercook Press. Additionally, the course exposed me to the practices and methods publishers used in the early twentieth century by showcasing the outstanding examples of printing and publishing housed in both the RBS collections and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. In so doing, T-60 gave me the ability to discern any anomalous or unusual editorial and printing practices in which Faulkner engaged while crafting his fictional works.
I presented my RBS project at the 2015 annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, the topic of which was Faulkner and Print Culture, and I have subsequently been working to expand my project into an article for publication.
My Rare Book School project was an experiment in literary oblivion. For the past year, I studied the production, dissemination, and disappearance of the long poem Ontwa, The Son of the Forest, written by an American soldier named Henry Whiting and published anonymously as a book in 1822. The essay I produced from my research did not seek a rehabilitation of Ontwa as much as a post-mortem. That is, I tried to explore questions of literary merit and canonicity through a via negativa of sorts, by examining a work of literature entirely forgotten today.
After stumbling upon Ontwa accidentally in Special Collections, I quickly realized that the poem, despite its short life, was far from ordinary. Most striking was the fact that the 85-page poem narrates not the actions of white explorers or settlers, but rather a conflict between Erie and Iroquois Indian tribes in the 1650s. Also significant was a series of prose “Illustrations” following the poem itself: pseudo-ethnographic observations about Indian culture and customs provided by Lewis Cass, then governor of Michigan Territory and later Secretary of State under James Buchanan. Ontwa would be included in the first collection of American poetry published in Europe (1828), and was an important but obscured precursor to Longfellow’s massively popular Song of Hiawatha (1855).
In my essay I argue that making sense of a vanished work like Ontwa brings to the fore questions of historical documentation too easily occluded when studying canonical works of literature. This position was strengthened for me by the RBS course I took with Jim Green, The History of the Book in America, c.1700–1830, which reinforced the fundamentally material condition of book-based textuality. For literary scholars, our sense of canonicity, of literariness itself, emerges as a function of a text’s material and rhetorical engagements with the world. Studying the forgotten book Ontwa let me experience this fact first-hand.
My ongoing project is the transcription and digitization of a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript housed in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections library (MSS 1134), which preserves several comedies by the Roman playwright Plautus (c.3rd–2nd centuries B.C.E.). The first play in the collection and the initial target for transcription, the Amphitruo, holds unique interest as a self-described experiment in “tragic-comedy” (tragicomoedia) and the author’s only foray into mythological themes. This variegated work, a clever mixture of tragedy and comedy, entails Jupiter’s seduction (facilitated by wily Mercury) of the beautiful Alcmena. Their union leads to the birth of the ultimate ancient hero: Heracles. The Amphitruo, and plays like it within this manuscript, raise a fundamental question about audience: what value did this pagan romp hold for a Renaissance reader so far removed from it in time and place?
To address this question I am focusing on the transcription and digital markup not only of the text of each play within the manuscript, but of the various glosses, comments, and illuminations it has acquired. This data will in turn be used to reconstruct a portrait of the reader and his reception of classical literature, taking the form of a digital presentation. Without the assistance of RBS, in particular David Seaman’s course, XML in Action: Creating Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Texts, this work would be impossible. In the seminar, participants had the opportunity to transcribe texts and encode in XML markup language—skills that have proved invaluable to the development of my project.