2017–18 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 2017–18 cohort of RBS-UVA Fellows includes:

  • Ashley Boulden – Ph.D. student, McIntire Department of Art
  • Nouha Gammar – Ph.D. student, Department of French
  • Andrew Hill – Ph.D. student, Department of French
  • Samuel Lemley – Ph.D. student, Department of English
    **Recipient of the 2017–18 Betsy and Stuart Houston Prize – click here to see Samuel’s project**
  • Julianne McCobin – Ph.D. student, Department of English
    **2017–18 RBS-UVA Fellowship Project Honorable Mention**
  • Anne Marie Thompson – Ph.D. student, Department of English
  • Natalie Thompson – Ph.D. student, Department of English

Andrew Hill
Ph.D. student, Department of French
The Reading Practice of Compassion in a Fourteenth-Century Book of Hours

My project centers on the material archive of the widely popular St. Margaret during the European Middle Ages, with a focus on France. In my research, I explore the common ground shared by material culture, the history of emotions, and medieval devotional practices. One of my objectives is to catalogue the visual/literary representations of St. Margaret in medieval manuscripts in the U.S. To acquire the tools to accomplish the codicological tasks involved with my project, I participated in Seminar in Western Codicology, taught by M. Michèle Mulchahey. Concerning the bibliographic framework for my dissertation, the course provided me with a set of critical questions and skills necessary for deciphering a medieval text accurately. After taking the course, one tangible result is that now I can recognize the subtle differences among Gothic scripts. The course also aided me in identifying the crucial works of reference used widely in the field of manuscript studies.

With my newly-acquired skills from the RBS course, I completed an original transcription and translation of an early fifteenth-century Latin leaf (MSS 12455-a). Prior to my transcription and translation, this text was not available for inclusion in my dissertation. The recto side consists of an ornate, fully-decorated floriate border, including an elaborate initial. Inside this decorated border, an anonymous scribe produced eighteen lines in a Gothic Textualis script with its characteristic upward curves at the bottom of the letters. The text, which begins with the Latin word post, marks the time after which Christ died, was resurrected, and then ascended to heaven. The opportunity to study with a specialist not otherwise available at the University of Virginia gave me invaluable first-hand experience with medieval manuscripts.


Samuel Lemley
Recipient of the 2017–18 Betsy and Stuart Houston Prize
Ph.D. student, Department of English
Shoring Fragments, ca. 1605 (Dissertation section)

Heather Wolfe’s The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern English Manuscripts prepared me to decipher marginalia in over thirty copies of William Camden’s Remains Concerning Britain (1605). Since August 2017, I have examined approximately 200 annotations, revealing that Camden’s sole work written in English was widely used by its loquaciously-penned readers. Itself a hodgepodge of epitaphs, aphorisms, epigrams, and etymologies, Camden’s Remains evidently prompted its readers to engage in their own collecting and common-placing: the flyleaves and margins of most copies brim with readerly addenda. Of course, these fascinating notes were inscrutable as recently as last summer—Dr. Wolfe’s coaching helped me make sense of the most baffling details of early modern handwriting (17th-century Cs and 16th-century Rs still give me trouble, as do the various forms of the insidiously-named ‘butcher-hook H’; happily, I’ve almost mastered the ‘-er graph’).

I submitted a portion of a dissertation chapter in fulfillment of the RBS-UVA fellowship program. The chapter, my first, argues that fragmented things (stones, monuments, epitaphs, potsherds, etymologies, and bones) were of emblematic significance for antiquaries in seventeenth-century England and that early modern antiquarianism, rather than mounting a piecemeal effort to reconstruct the past, accessed the past by way of synecdoche: from gathered parts, antiquaries inferred the whole, more Rorschach than jigsaw.


Julianne McCobin
2017–18 RBS-UVA Fellowship Project Honorable Mention
Ph.D. student, Department of English
Circulating Anxiety: Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as Critiques of American Print Culture

In this project, I ask how writers understand and grapple with American book history, taking up all the promises, failures, and frustrations that have accompanied print culture in America. More specifically, I explore how and why modern and contemporary novels self-consciously engage their own status as literary objects circulating in a distinctly American cultural space. Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996)—two bizarre meditations on print circulation and the vexed relationship between art and entertainment in the U.S.—seek to both fascinate and alienate their readers, drawing attention to literature’s pleasurable aesthetic traps while exhibiting, I argue, a particularly American anxiety about the work of those traps in public life. These two novels offer anxious commentaries on print culture and literary consumption, urging us to rethink what we subscribe to and why.

Jeffrey Groves’ and Scott Casper’s course, The History of the Book in America: A Survey from Colonial to Modern, provided an overview of American book history that was essential for this project. Understanding the material transmission of texts and the long and varied history of print culture in America involved learning about specific printing techniques, modes of publishing, distribution systems, and the evolving practices of the book and magazine trade. The course allowed me to think in new and concrete ways about practices of reading and cultural anxieties surrounding fiction in the United States, and this focus on the sociology of texts has informed both this paper and my research interests more broadly.


Anne Marie Thompson
Ph.D. student, Department of English
“Tricks of type”: The Innovative Production of Hope Mirrlees’ Paris: A Poem

The RBS course I attended, The History of 19th- & 20th-Century Typography & Printing, opened my eyes to the fascinating ways that even the choice of a font can mean something. Katherine Ruffin and John Kristensen, with the help of the RBS Vandercook Press, taught me how texts were printed for centuries, from the Gutenberg press until the end of the “letterpress era” around 1970. This course illuminated my understanding of the poetry from the turn of the twentieth century and its dependence on the small press movement at that time.

My RBS project is a conference paper on Hope Mirrlees’ Paris: A Poem, an experimental, typographically daring poem published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press. In Paris, Mirrlees uses the material, formal elements of her medium—paper, ink, and type—as visual equivalents to fragments of the city of Paris, such as advertisements and sounds. The visual surface of the poem is as chaotic as the subjective perceptions of the speaker who strolls through the city. However, by sad necessity, in the contemporary edition of Mirrlees’ collected poems we read Paris sandwiched between introductory material and other poems and essays, perfectly centered on the pages in upright Times New Roman. My project recovers the unique characteristics of the first edition of Paris, showing how its publication marks a unique conjunction of the renaissance of printing, avant-garde experimentation, and modernist coterie friendships.


Natalie Thompson
Ph.D. student, Department of English
Editing Mary De-Clifford: Critical, Historical, and Material Perspectives

David Vander Meulen’s Scholarly Editing: Principles & Practice helped outline for me the many decisions to be made when preparing a scholarly edition and guided me in building my own theory of text for this edition. For each step of the process, from locating and establishing relationships between materials to defining a standard with which to establish a new text, our group discussed the theoretical principles involved in making editorial decisions and applied them to our various ongoing projects. One of the most valuable aspects of this course, for me, was the way we practiced deploying theoretical principles in different ways according to the needs of the project, often taking participants’ proposed editions as examples. This helped me develop a set of theoretical tools that can be applied to diverse editing problems, not just my immediate project.

I used the theoretical frameworks gleaned from the course in developing my edition of a relatively unknown eighteenth-century novel, Mary De-Clifford. Accounting for the novel’s multiple possible scholarly uses—as an intertext with Jane Austen’s early novels, as evidence about a pivotal moment in publishing history, and as a material artifact—I took the 1792 first edition as my copy-text. To balance these perspectives in the edition, I decided to supplement my textual notes and introduction with appendices that help keep the edition engaged with the physical properties of the extant copies of this edition as well as providing critical context for the novel as a literary work.