2019–20 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 2019–20 cohort of RBS-UVA Fellows includes:
- Lucia Alden – Ph.D. student, Department of English
**2019–20 RBS-UVA Fellowship Project Honorable Mention**
- Emma Dove – Ph.D. student, McIntire Department of Art
- Alexandra Kennedy – Ph.D. student, Department of English
- Michael VanHoose – Ph.D. student, Department of English
**Recipient of the 2019–20 Dawn and Stuart Houston Prize for Most Outstanding Project**
My RBS-UVA Fellowship enabled me to gain a greater understanding of descriptive bibliography and build on the knowledge I had acquired at UVA. David R. Whitesell’s Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography course helped fine-tune my collating skills through continuous and persistent practice under the tutelage of expert mentors. The discussions around collation and interpreting physical evidence that we had in our break-out groups helped illuminate how complicated “books” are and how unique copies (and indeed, collations of copies) can be. I was able to take the skills of close observation and material investigation that I honed in Descriptive Bibliography and apply it to my research on Michael Drayton. My project on Drayton combines print history with descriptive bibliography. The skills I learned in Descriptive Bibliography proved enormously helpful to my practical project of producing a descriptive bibliography of UVA’s copy of Drayton’s 1605 Poems, as it required me to collate, transcribe, and investigate variants in the production of Poems, both within the copy and across copies. The skills I learned in David Whitesell’s course with RBS were crucial to this project and have primed me for the bibliographical description needed for my final dissertation chapter on Thomas Middleton’s A Game at Chess.
Peter Stallybrass and Lynne Farrington’s The Bible and Histories of Reading prepared me to treat illuminated miniatures of the wound in Christ’s side that appear in medieval prayer books within their historical and biblical contexts. Lectures from Professor Stallybrass, notes for which I still refer to regularly, ranged from biblical history to bibliography to iconography, and never failed to challenge my pre-conceived notions about the Bible and religious culture. (Especially memorable was a quiz he gave on iconography of the Trinity.) Carefully chosen examples from the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania complemented Professor Stallybrass’s lectures and inspired generative conversations among students.
My project reassesses an illuminated wound in the Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, which an accompanying inscription claims is the exact shape and size of Christ’s own wound at the Crucifixion. I contend, first, that based on material, textual, and visual evidence in Bonne’s prayer book, the illuminated wound functions as an androgynous bodily opening and prompts manuscript users to assume both male and female subject positions through a process I call “distributed gender.” I also contend that, within the context of ritual, devotional practice, manuscripts such as Bonne of Luxembourg’s prayer book prompt their users to engage illuminations of Christ’s side wound as “paradoxical relics” of Christ’s body. My project was accepted for presentation at the Seventh Annual Feminist Art History Conference, originally slated to take place in September 2020. The conference was postponed due to the pandemic but took place in 2021.
Engaging with women’s manuscript medical writing for this project would have been impossible without Dr. Heather Wolfe’s expert instruction in The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern English Manuscripts. Our time spent getting to know early modern letter forms, working on hands-on transcriptions, practicing with quill pen maintenance, and immersing ourselves in historical context empowered me equally when archives were open for in-person consultation, and when we all pivoted towards remote work when the pandemic forced the closure of collections, and manuscripts had to be found and examined digitally. Not only did Rare Book School give me this practical skill, but it has also given me the chance to find community online during a time of isolation, through transcription groups and projects organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective. The process of working on this project on gender and a particular early modern illness—greensickness—amid the pandemic has offered surprising moments of resonance and recognition.
We have all witnessed firsthand the power of language when it comes to labeling and understanding the body and its ailments. We have seen how illnesses and their treatment intersect with identity categories like gender. At the darkest moments of the pandemic, we have seen how some in power have harmed more than helped those in their care (in our present, whether by disseminating medical misinformation or perpetuating vaccine inequity). And yet, both past and present, there have been heroic people eager to help one another to achieve health and wholeness, recording what remedies work to better people’s lives, even in the face of uncertainty. My project has dealt with some such individuals—largely ordinary women working to address a condition (which we as modern people might label iron deficiency anemia) that they did not wholly understand, but wanted to ameliorate.
Recipient of the 2019–20 Dawn and Stuart Houston Prize for Most Outstanding Project
Ph.D. student, Department of English
Longman and the Microeconomics of British Fiction Publishing, 1797–1836
When I enrolled in Timothy D. Barrett and John Bidwell’s course, The History of European & American Papermaking, I knew my time in the RBS-UVA Fellowship would challenge me to think systematically about the role of papermaking in the economic modernization of British publishing during the early nineteenth century. Then in the midst of transcribing data from the House of Longman’s cost and sale records for more than 200 novels published in 1797–1836, I was coming to appreciate that the adoption of machine-made paper fundamentally altered the business model of popular literary publishing. No two scholars could have better shored up my ignorance of the longuedurée and international contexts of paper mechanization than Barrett, a skilled hand papermaker who openly lamented the papermaking machine as “the beginning of the end” for the heyday of his craft, and Bidwell, a trade historian who professed his love of “bad paper” and relished anecdotes of the early mechanizers’ corporate espionage and duplicitous backroom dealings. Jointly, they offered a kind of pedagogical dialectic on the means and goals of bibliography, which has served me well as I sought to understand both Longman’s records of paper purchases and the physical evidence of the paper in surviving copies from his editions. Their kind and encouraging feedback has helped me develop the confidence to incorporate bibliographical and statistical analysis of the paper trade throughout my dissertation.