Geoffrey of Monmouth- History or Fiction?

http://www.themorgan.org/collection/crusader-bible/84

From the 13th Century Morgan Picture Bible. It has nothing to do with my research, but it’s one of my favorite manuscripts. From illumanu.tumblr.com/page/33.


This summer, I’m researching the ways that history was created and used politically in 12th-century England. Pretty exciting, right? Don’t worry, it’s less dry than it sounds. In this post, I’ll talk a little bit about the main text that I’ve been working with: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain.

Writing sometime between 1136 and 1138, Geoffrey presented his work as a historical account of the lives of ninety-nine British kings, translated from material that he found in an ancient book. Geoffrey tells a very compelling story, and Michael Faletra’s translation is top notch. The problem? Very little of the material in the History is remotely close to what we now consider factual. It reads more like a work of imaginative fantasy than a history book.

Inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, as well as Bede, Nennius, and Gildas, Geoffrey creates an elaborate history for the British people (these days we might call them Celtic peoples- the ancestors of the Welsh, Cornish, and Bretons). He begins with the fall of Troy, describing how Aeneas’ grandson, Brutus, brought a group of Trojans to Britain, defeated the giants who lived there, and settled down. From there, the History is a wild ride- there are more wars with giants, magic, prophecies, and multiple British kings who conquer Rome and become emperors.

Where Geoffrey really shines is his tale of King Arthur. The History of the Kings of Britain is the first text in which the Arthurian legend really appeared in its present form, and it’s a great account. Arthur unites the Britons, conquers Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, Gaul, and Rome (essentially the known world), sets up a grand court at Caerleon, and is eventually brought low by Guinevere’s infidelity and the treacherous Mordred. After Arthur’s death, the Britons’ last hope is gone and they are doomed to fade into obscurity. A good number of the classic Arthurian characters are there- besides the aforementioned Guinevere and Mordred, Merlin makes an appearance, as do Sir Gawain, Sir Kay, and Sir Bedivere. The History started the medieval craze for King Arthur and his knights, inspiring French romancers like Chrétien de Troyes, who added Perceval’s quest for the Holy Grail and Lancelot’s story to the mix.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Codex_Manesse_052r_Walther_von_Klingen_(detail_2).jpg

Knights Jousting from the Manesse Codex. Again not related to my research, but another great set of illuminations. Wikimedia Commons.

To modern historians, Geoffrey’s History is obviously legendary. One of the fun parts about medieval history, however, is that medieval writers frequently didn’t concern themselves with the distinction between fact and fiction. The fact that Geoffrey cited unquestionably reputable sources (Bede, especially) was enough for most scholars to accept his account as truth.

So I’ve had the chance to look into a lot of interesting questions over the course of this project: What is fiction and why do we differentiate it from ‘history’? Why did medieval scholars approach the world differently than we do? How can we use the blurred distinction between history and fiction to better understand social and political life in the Middle Ages?

Those may be questions for a different blog post, but I’ll leave you with a thought. (Kind of a long thought- bear with me…) Going into this project, I wasn’t sure if the studying the Middle Ages had much value for individuals and institutions. The 1130s were an awfully long time ago, and don’t provide the most fruitful ground for the sort of identity-politics/postcolonial/not-white-people history that’s popular today. So why should we study the medieval period at all?

Looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth provides one good reason. His is very much an invented history: Fiona Tolhurst argues quite convincingly that his ‘British’ history was intended to provide a sense of historical legitimacy to the newly powerful Norman kings after their invasion of England in 1066. By presenting his invention as history, Geoffrey lends a sense of legitimacy to William the Conqueror’s power grab and therefore to his successors’ rights to the throne.

So here’s something to think about, especially with the 4th of July right around the corner: are there parts of our own history where an invented narrative provides legitimacy to an otherwise questionable action? Why are stories of black men fighting for the Confederacy used to excuse the South’s racism? How did speculation about the explosion of the USS Maine contribute to the Spanish-American war? How do people use the supposed intentions of the Founding Fathers to justify practically anything? (Examples: For gun control, against gun control). You get the point- the creation of myth was not limited to the Middle Ages. The questions that Geoffrey brings up about the divide between history and fiction and the political nature of stories have many applications today.

Anyway, I find the research interesting and really appreciate the Hurford Center’s willingness to fund it. If you ever get a chance to read Geoffrey of Monmouth, you might be pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and thought provoking medieval literature can be.

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Summer at CFG

Two unchanging rules of gallery exhibits: 1. Every show will have its own big or small problems 2. All problems will eventually be fixed and the show will open!

Hi, I’m Kelly, and I am working as the intern for the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery this summer. Though I already work at CFG during the school year, I decided to stay in order to gain a more in depth experience of aspects of gallery work, especially in understanding how a show is built conceptually. First, let me introduce CFG a bit: there are five shows every year, each of them relating to Haverford’s curriculum in one way or another, and the final show featuring the fine arts seniors of Haverford and Bryn Mawr. Working at CFG has allowed art to be a constant presence in my college life, whether it is through talking to visitors about Adrian Blackwell’s sculpture, hanging art work during installation periods, or even just standing at openings and observing other visitors interact with the art work.

My first task as a gallery summer assistant was to help set up for the alumni weekend show, which was a small open house for the HCAH and a showcase of the new VCAM (Visual Culture, Arts and Media) space that will be replacing Ryan Gym. The show consisted of different posters for the HCAH events, a boat made during the boat making workshop in May, part of the American Rubble show recreated, and videos of a couple student documentaries, as well as interviews with past CFG collaborators. At first, it all sounded pretty simple – just set up the videos, pin up some photos and posters and furnish the lounge area that had moved inside the gallery – but I was completely wrong. Matthew (my boss) and I first faced our problem when we realized we did not have the proper pins to put up the HCAH posters; to solve this we drove all the way into Philly and bought pins. This speaks to the nature of gallery work – everything needs to be precise and as perfect as possible, because even small details such as a pin can change the viewer’s experience in the gallery. Then, putting the posters up in a grid itself was another challenge since the posters were different in size and did not make up a perfect grid (gallery work always requires so much more math than you would ever anticipate). It took almost four hours to put up eight rows of posters. Aside from this incident of putting up posters, we faced many other difficulties, such as sounds in the video rooms bleeding into one another and vinyl bubbling up, just to name a few. However, when the doors opened on Friday, many alumni, students and staff walked in, curious about the displays, asking questions and looking carefully at the walls or watching the videos in the rooms. Sitting at the front desk, I was once again reminded why I chose to spend my summer in this gallery. I love watching people in this space, thinking and talking about art, and I feel proud that I was a part of constructing the space for such dialogues. Furthermore, no matter what problem comes up, whether it is labels falling off the wall or missing pins, I am taught to fix situations and make the best out of what is there.

Image by Lisa Boughter

Image by Lisa Boughter

Image by Lisa Boughter

Image by Lisa Boughter

So far, my CFG summer has been very colorful and diverse; it’s a good mixture of hard labor and deskwork, skype meetings and field trips. Since we took down the show for the alumni weekend, I have spent time thinking about interactive programming ideas to get more members of the community, especially students, to visit the gallery and engage in art. I’ve tinkered with our styrofoam gallery model, brainstorming new layout ideas and rendering them for next year’s shows, been in a couple of meetings with curators, helped out in the deconstruction of the monument lab at City Hall, and have been reading and thinking about the new shows that will be in the CFG next year. I plan to return back to this blog with more exciting news about next year’s shows, as well as updates on my adventures with Matt!

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Teaching Visual and Linguistic Literacy at SAAM

This summer, I am interning with the Education Department at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I am especially helping with a professional development program called Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art. It is a weeklong program that seeks to provide teachers from around the country with the tools they need to incorporate art in their social studies and English/language arts classrooms.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum. I know these photos are pretty glamorous, and that’s because I got them from the website. This is a view of one of the entrances. The sky looks pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

This program is interesting to me because it encourages both a visual and a linguistic literacy, emphasizing the parallels between the two. In my personal experience in academia, writing a good paper has been privileged above such skills as interpreting symbols in a photograph or analyzing materials and texture in a sculpture.

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Kogod Courtyard, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This courtyard used to be outdoor before a series of major renovations in the early 2000s. Now, it is a beautiful indoor courtyard, perfect for lunch breaks (shameless promotion). Fun fact: The patterned, wavy glass roof isn’t actually touching the original building. It was designed by architects Foster+Partners in London especially so that the weight wouldn’t compromise the building structure. It still keeps rain and snow out, though. I’m not really sure how that works, but it does.

Oftentimes, a person’s intelligence or intellectual capability are judged by the words he or she can understand and the words with which he or she chooses to express him or herself. That’s just not fair, especially today, because though we are surrounded by words, we are also surrounded by visual stimuli. Whether you are viewing a political cartoon, a crime scene, or your friends’ facial expressions, knowing how to read the visuals surrounding you is just as important as knowing how to read the words. That’s why I like this Institute, I think. It teaches teachers how to incorporate and connect visual and linguistic literacies to reach out to a variety of learners and to empower students to be curious and thoughtful about the world around them in different ways.

Lincoln Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Lincoln Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This is one of my favorite galleries in the museum. It is the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery. It houses a wide variety of works from the late 20th Century to today: works by Nam June Paik, Alexander Calder, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Kerry James Marshall, Sol LeWitt, Nick Cave, and so so so many more. I am loving learning about so many amazing artists and artworks.

Have a great day.

-Courtney Carter, 17

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The Process of Cultural Mapping

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Avenue of the States- the proposed thoroughfare for the Chester Cultural Corridor

Over the past few weeks, I have frequently visited Chester and the surrounding area. The city of Chester is situated on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Wilmington. Once the commercial and industrial hub of Delaware County, the decline of heavy industry in the region has caused prolonged urban flight.  In the last 60 years, the population has dwindled from its peak of 66,000 in 1950 to 34,000 today. Yet in the past few years, local residents and the city of Chester have looked at ways to recognize the thriving arts and culture scene in Chester as an opportunity to highlight the region’s cultural assets to visitors and residents alike. Artists like Ethel Waters and Bill Haley lived in Chester and today it is home to many grassroots art, theater, and dance groups. To emphasize the region’s cultural vitality, the Chester Cultural Corridor was envisioned, which sought funding for an innovative city planning initiative to bring arts to the forefront of downtown Chester.

chester made ensemble

Chester Made Ensemble

Yet before any future plans could be discussed regarding land use and city planning, a project called “Chester Made” was developed in order to construct a cultural map listing places of existing and historic artistic and cultural significance to help inform and assist promoters of a downtown arts and culture district. This summer, one of the projects that I have been working on as an intern with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council is the production of such a cultural map. The catch with the development of such a map was that every data point and location placed on it needed to be identified by local residents in order to best represent the community’s valuation of local heritage sites and organizations. To integrate the community into future place-making initiatives, eight story gathering sessions were held earlier in the year where hundreds of residents shared their experiences of arts and culture in Chester. These were directed by an ensemble who directed the sessions in theater-based gatherings.

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Snapshot of the Cultural Asset Map

The result? After combing through the transcriptions to identify all the places that came up during the group interviews and pinpointing their locations, a map began to emerge. Using Esri, an online mapping software platform, over a hundred heritage sites, organizations, cultural industries, and events have so far been placed on the map on an online portal (chestermade.chestercity.com/). I’ve cooperated a lot with the city planning department to get the online map up.

The website is an ongoing project that is crowd-sourced, so we’ll receive more feedback on it once we unveil it to local residents. There will be a few events in Chester to help present the map through the summer, so more updates are coming…

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Lettres de cachet and Eighteenth Century Crime

I am here in Paris for the summer, assisting Professor Graham with her research on debauchery in eighteenth century France. She is writing a book, Debauchery and Enlightenment in Eighteenth Century France, that looks at debauchery from a variety of different angles. As her assistant last summer, I read eighteenth century books on women’s physiology, treatises about women and morality, biographies of Louis XV’s mistresses, and legal texts, all of which offered different perspectives on moral crime. This summer, I am working at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris, to learn more about debauchery from lettres de cachet.

Lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king that allowed a suspect to be imprisoned without any legal process. Farge & Foucault explain how the system of lettres de cachet served as a way to avoid the judicial system, which was inefficient and impossible. They also argue that this system worked to the advantage of the families, the king, and the police: family honor was maintained, as was public order. The two were closely related. (By the end of the eighteenth century, lettres de cachet were associated with oppression, tyranny, and arbitrary monarchal rule).

The Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal is located in a 17th century building near the site of the former Bastille prison. The Arsenal became a library during the French Revolution on 9 floréal An V (the revolutionary calendar equivalent of April 28, 1797). (The building is beautiful and historic, but unfortunately this means it is not air-conditioned!)

In Le désordre des familles, Farge & Foucault describe their study of lettres de cachet at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in the early 1980s. “We were [...] struck by the fact that, in many cases, these demands were made about private family matters: small conflicts between parents and children, domestic discord, misconduct of one of the spouses, disorder of a boy or girl. […] despite the incomplete character of these archives, we often found, around a demand for imprisonment, a whole series of other pieces: attestations of neighbors, of the family, or of the relatives, inquiries from commissaires de police, decisions of the king, demands for liberty from those who were the victims of the internment or even from those who had made the demands” (p. 7-8). These documents, which exist only in microfilm/manuscript form at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, are at times incomplete, hard to read, and confusing, but they are also interesting, illuminating, and surprising. My job is to read through a selective sample of these files (all of the documents from the year 1741) and record important information into about 20 different categories in a spreadsheet, so that Professor Graham can study and sort the information, as a sort of mini-database. Some of these categories are straightforward–age, job, date of arrest, etc., while others are freer, more nuanced, or more challenging–transcriptions of passages relating to debauchery, labels for different crime categories, and so on. Débauche comes up frequently in the letters, and, as Farge & Foucault point out, it is used vaguely (p. 37) and in association with other crimes. However, it consistently has to do with a public, and therefore disordering behavior. This constitutes a sort of moral crime in ancien régime Paris.

My workstation at the library.

My workstation at the library.

The other night I was picking up some things at Monoprix, and an extremely drunk man was in the line, loudly shouting, joking around, and trying to cut the line. I was struck by the thought that in the eighteenth century, he could be imprisoned if I wrote a letter to the police and had it signed by the other people in the store. Thinking about how lettres de cachet could be used today makes it easier to imagine how they functioned in the eighteenth century, and some of the letters are vivid enough to evoke this sense of reality and relevance.

Aside from my library work, I am enjoying being in Paris. I was happy to get to see (and run with!) Rebecca Fisher and Evan Hamilton last week. I am very grateful to the Hurford Center and the Louis Green Fund for their generous support.

-Charlotte Lellman, ’15

*Arlette Farge & Michel Foucault, Le désordre des familles, Gallimard, 1982. The translations are mine.

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Intro to Influenza at the Mütter Museum

This summer, I’m working at the Mütter Museum  of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (fun fact: if you’re like me and don’t know how to pronounce the German umlaut, you can pronounce the ü like “oo”, according to their FAQ).  The Museum is starting to put together an exhibit about the 1918 flu pandemic that tore across the world, and hit Philadelphia especially hard. My job has been to look through the Museum’s collection as well as the collections of the College’s Historical Medical Library to see what they have that could be useful for this exhibit, which has been an amazing opportunity for me to work with some really cool and unique material.

I didn’t know much about the 1918 flu pandemic when I set out– in fact, I didn’t know much else other than that there was a pandemic, let alone how awful it was. To give you an idea of the severity of this pandemic, here’s a graph from the U.S. Public Health Service’s Public Health Reports:

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Collins, Selwyn D., W.H. Frost, Mary Gover, and Edgar Sydenstricker. “Mortality from Influenza and Pneumonia in 50 Large Cities of the United States.” Public Health Reports 45, no. 39 (September 26, 1930): 3377-2328. Reprint No. 1415. p. 10.

This graph shows the excess deaths from influenza for the years mid 1918-1929. Those tiny spikes to the right represent all the flu epidemics that occurred in 1920-1929. The giant spike on the far left? That’s the epidemic from 1918-1919.

Needless to say, it was an absolutely devastating loss of life, but strangely, not one we talk about a lot. Alfred Crosby, who published one of the first modern studies about the 1918-19, asserts in America’s Forgotten Pandemic that most American students, at the time of the book’s publication, knew more about the bubonic plague than they did about Spanish flu, which happened within the past century and in our own country. I know that when I was in middle and high school, we spent a lot of time talking about the first World War and of those, we spent maybe five minutes of class discussing the flu pandemic. The authors I have read who have studied the pandemic all make an attempt to answer the question of why the 1918 pandemic isn’t a part of the commonly understood American history, but nobody really has an answer that feels satisfactory to me, and I’m not sure that answer exists. Leafing through the books, pamphlets, and newspaper articles at the library, I’m mostly just amazed at how easily something that profoundly affected so many people in so many places slipped out of significance, especially given the flu pandemic scares in recent years, like panic over H1N1 in 2010.

It’s a little bit of a sobering topic, but a great chance to look at a part of history that I haven’t thought about before, as well as being able to work with some really fascinating material. In addition to Public Health Reports, I’ve also been able to look at material from the census, pamphlets about homeopathic cures, and a set of interviews with nuns in Philadelphia, and this is only the beginning. I’m excited for the rest of the summer and to continue my work at the College of Physicians!

Carolyn Woodruff, ’17

 

Crosby, Alfred. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK:   Cambridge University Press, 2003.

 

 

 

 

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The Seventh Ward, Food Deserts and More

This summer I’m lucky enough to be a research assistant for The Ward project at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the cool things about this project is how open-ended it is; essentially it is a continuation of W.E.B. DuBois’ work when he was at UPenn—and as such there is no real final goal to the work that we’re doing. This means I’ve been given the freedom to research what I want to research, learn a ton about DuBois, and find different ways to apply his century old research and our modern work to things that matter like education.

BOOKPICBLOG

Since I started here three weeks ago I’ve gone to a meeting about food deserts in Philadelphia (something I did not know existed prior to the meeting), recorded 1920s census data from the 7th Ward, and created lesson plans and explored West Philly in my free time. So far learning about DuBois and Philadelphia as a city has been a lot of fun. One of the highlights of my internship was getting a chance to work with 5th grade students on a miniature-mapping project. They definitely had more energy than I did at 9am, but we had a lot of fun walking around and trying to out everything we saw onto a map.

Most of our work draws back to DuBois’ The Philadelphia Negro, which is a sociological exploration of African-American lives in Philadelphia around 1900. This study analyzed everything from culture to socio-economics in an effort to better understand the black existence in urban environments. With that said, a decent amount of my time been spent reading DuBois’ book and trying to understand the scope and implications of such a piece.

–Brandon Alleyne ’17

 

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Jews and the Civil War

First, hello! My name is Laura Newman Eckstein (HC ’16), and I am a Hurford Humanities Fellow researching Southern Jews pre-1865 for my senior religion thesis. I am in Cincinnati this summer at the American Jewish Archives, which has one of the best collections of information on American Jewry in the world, particularly Southern Jewry.

Special Orders No. 296  regarding Alexander Hart, Richmond, Virginia, November 9th, 1863 Courtesy the Jacob R. Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

Special Orders No. 296 regarding Alexander Hart, Richmond, Virginia, November 9th, 1863
Courtesy the Jacob R. Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

As we speak I am combing through the file of a Jewish Confederate soldier: his medical passes, his letters home, his vouchers, and his military correspondence.

I come to this research through an interest in my own family. I have around six Jewish Confederate ancestors. I often wonder if they knew for what they were fighting. My concepts of  the Confederate position  is veiled in my own notions of history, looking back through the book of memory and time. While today the Confederate army is associated with racism and slavery, for most Jewish Confederates it had nothing to do with slavery in particular. I am finding that very few Jews, pre-Civil War, were plantation owners; they were mostly merchants. Yet they did have a vested interest in the class structure that pervaded the South before the Civil War. Amid planters and non-planters, whites and blacks, slaves and free people, the Jews were able to flourish and seemingly assimilate into their communities in a way they had been unable to do in Europe and the Caribbean. With newfound and welcome prosperity and a sense acceptance, the need to prove themselves, to fight for and demonstrate their position within the larger Southern society, was an obvious reason for their participation in Confederate Army.

Reflecting this sentiment twenty years before the War began, Gustavus Posznanski, the leader of the oldest Synagogue in the South, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Caronlina, in his speech at the dedication of the new synagogue building in 1841 said: ‘“This synagogue is our temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine, and as our fathers defended with their lives that temple and that land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city, and this land”’(Rosen, 1-2 ).

Marcus and Henrietta Feist, my great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Arkansas Rifles for the Confederate Army during the Civil War

Marcus and Henrietta Feist, my great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Arkansas Rifles for the Confederate Army during the Civil War

However, it seems ironic that a people who have historically been the oppressed were the ones on the side of oppression. Scholars note that after the Civil War there were many more anti-Semitic incidents in the Southern United States. Perhaps the Southern Jews were not as assimilated as they thought, but served disproportionately  on the Confederate side due to their insecurity about acceptance and assimilation. With turmoil and with the abolition of slavery, with the destruction of property and with the losses of war, Jews once again became targets.

The Jews of the South, particularly the Jewish Confederates, seem part of a distant and foreign past. Yet they tell the story of a group trying to survive in an unfriendly world, disregarding the intolerance of a society in order to feel accepted. I wonder whether am I so different from my Confederate ancestors. No, there isn’t slavery in the 1850′s sense, but there are other injustices pervading our world. I feel that I am an assimilated Jewish-American. Am I disregarding injustice in order to feel societal acceptance?

  •  Rosen, R. (2000). Prologue. In The Jewish Confederates. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.
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Maps and Scooter the Dog: Beginnings at Fringe

fringe_hurford_blog

Wow, Kensington!

Whenever I do not have a specific project at FringeArts, I draw maps. Each map is of a different neighborhood in Philadelphia and so far, I have drawn five, Old City, Kensington, South Philly, North Philly, and West Philly. These hand drawn doodles are going to be in the Festival Guide and are meant to help patrons navigate their ways around Fringe Festival. While these maps are hopefully going to be useful to festival goers in the near future, drawing them has been especially useful for me. My experience mapping each neighborhood has led to a deeper and more personal understanding of the contours and crevasses of Philadelphia.

This summer, I am the Guide Intern at FringeArts. FringeArts is an organization that ties together Philadelphia and the global world through contemporary performing arts. Every September, the organization presents Fringe Festival, an eightteen day celebration of art and performance (whoa!). During the festival, local, national, and international artists present dance performances, theater pieces, and visual art in a multitude of venues throughout the city (everyone, let’s go!). My main task for the summer is working on the festival guide, a booklet that lists basic festival information, like show times and locations, and extra pieces of writing, like blurbs about the artists and their performances.

Other than venturing to new places in Philly through my mechanical pencil and my computer paper maps, I have written blurbs, visited a wacky rehearsal for a contemporary remake of A Doll’s House for the upcoming Fringe Festival, and cuddled with Scooter, the coziest dog in the entire planet. I have also interviewed Haverford Alumna, Antonia Brown about her upcoming solo performance, One Dancer, Six Choreographers, and attended an explosive dance performance, called MashUp Body.

–Courtney Lau ’17

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Beginning with END

This summer, I am working as an Early Novels Database (END) researcher and cataloger. END is a project dedicated to deeply detailed, richly descriptive, but term controlled cataloging of 17th and 18th century novels pulled (primarily) from University of Pennsylvania’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. END aims to use the information gleaned in cataloging to better inform our understanding of the history of the novel. That is, how we came to have the genre of novel and, more broadly, fiction, and what defines them as objects and epistemes. It gets at two of my favorite philosophical and academic challenges: how do we know what we know, and how do we communicate that knowing to others?

END is also a self-reflexive project and so considers how those who describe data, like the title pages of novels, are in fact producers of data. Something as seemingly fact-driven as a library catalog record actually embodies a subjective interpretation of other pieces of knowledge. In recognition of this, we sign our initials on each catalog record we make, leaving a permanent link between the cataloger and the cataloged. I find this a pretty refreshing approach to the narrativization of knowledge and history.

There are a number of other reasons why this is a fantastic project, from its collaborative, inter-collegiate nature (Penn, Temple, and Swarthmore are all represented, and I have the pleasure of working with librarians, other undergrads, a professor, and grad students) to the way it tackles the specter of digital data analysis that sometimes seems to haunt the humanities. (Such team building and digital-tool-phobia eradication have happily been facilitated by much coffee and donuts.)

And, of course, there are the books themselves. I am currently cataloging a particularly stunning gem, The life and entertaining adventures of Mr. Cleveland, natural son of Oliver Cromwell, written by himself. Giving a particular account of his unhappiness in love, marriage, friendship, &c. and his great sufferings in Europe and America. Intermixed with reflections, describing the heart of man in all its variety of passions and disguises. Also, some curious particulars of Oliver’s history and amours, and several remarkable passages in the reign of King Charles II. (That is an abridged version of the title.)

Title page of The Life and Entertaining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland.

I will be blogging about this book later, as its approach to reality is somewhat creative. And it has one of the cheekiest prefaces I have yet come across, although I am gathering that the 1760s were, in general, a wild time for those who penned prefaces.

Until then, this serves at my preface, my record of what, thanks to the END team and the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, is looking like an incredible summer at the intersection of data analysis technology and literary scholarship.

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