Collaborative Curation: Cori Field on Student Exhibitions

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Cori Field of the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program. Cori is an exceptional colleague who really “gets” what an exhibition can do for her students. We are so lucky to have worked with her on the exhibition described below.

The “Sounds and Silences of Black Girlhood” exhibition resulted from a remarkable collaboration between undergraduates in the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program and Library staff. Finding archival sources by and about black girls is difficult even for professional historians because most collections are organized around the concerns of white adults. Undaunted, UVA students eagerly stepped up to the challenge. With the help of Molly Schwartzburg, Holly Robertson, and Erin Pappas, they identified a wide range of materials in Special Collections related to the global history of black girlhood, researched the significance of those items, and designed a compelling exhibit focused around the core themes of identity, resistance, and voice. In addition to curating the exhibit, they wrote longer articles about each item.

A screenshot of the blog that accompanies the exhibition. We encourage visitors to check it out to see the students’ hard work.

 

The key to this project was advanced planning. When I first decided to teach an advanced undergraduate seminar on the “Global History of Black Girlhood,” I met with Molly Schwartzburg to ask if it would be possible to produce a public history project from materials in Special Collections. Molly eagerly embraced the idea, volunteered her time, and most importantly, advised me on how to structure assignments so that students could complete the separate components of an exhibit on time. This early consultation enabled me to write an effective syllabus structured around the final project.

Because WGS is an interdisciplinary program, I knew most students in the seminar would not be historians and would likely be unfamiliar with archival research. To further complicate matters, sources on black girls are often hidden in larger collections and difficult to locate. It was therefore essential to provide students with some preliminary guide to relevant sources. The best resource was the expertise of Molly, Edward Gaynor, and other staff who pointed to numerous collections with promising material. Over the summer, Angel Nash, a Ph.D. student in the Curry School, worked with Edward and Molly to identify more sources and construct a bibliography of archival holdings at UVA related to black girlhood. By handing out this bibliography on the first day of class, I was able to give students the information they needed to hit the ground running.

Molly then met with class to discuss strategies for locating other types of sources. This became a history lesson in itself as students discussed the changing language of race and the complications of searching for people categorized variously as African, Negro, colored, African American, or black. Molly helped students to think about how different types of sources—for example, eighteenth-century travelogues, nineteenth-century wills, or early twentieth-century photographs—might prompt different types of research questions. Finally, she helped students figure out how to pursue their own interests by studying the past.

The best part came next as students went into Special Collections. Within two weeks, everyone in the class had identified a primary source that interested them and developed a plan for further research. The range of sources was amazing. For example, Nodjimadji Stringfellow found a 1820 memoir by a British official stationed on the Gold Coast. Dhanya Chittaranjan located a deed from a planter who presented his young granddaughter with the gift of an enslaved girl—”Martha Jane about six years old.” Diana Wilson, Emma McCallie, and Ivory Ibuaka all picked very different photographs from the Jackson Davis Collection. Lucas Dvorscak focused on a 1972 children’s book that retold the story of Alice in Wonderland with a black protagonist.  Samantha Josey-Borden found an original edition of Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. Other students found sources exploring black girls’ labor; resistance to sexual violence; creativity; and political organizing.

Some of the curators of the exhibition at the opening celebration with their instructor, Cori Field (far right).

The next challenge was to combine these materials into a coherent exhibit. Once again, Molly provided guidance, encouraging students to begin with the exhibition space. We went to the exhibition hall, looked at the cases, and talked about how different items might fit. We then returned to the seminar room and discussed organizational strategies. Students quickly rejected a geographical or chronological approach and decided to organize the exhibit around key themes—but what themes? Together, students brainstormed ideas, eliminated some, voted for others and grouped their items into three broad categories of identity, resistance, and voice. They also thought about the physical properties of the items themselves and came up with the idea of enlarging two particularly striking images and hanging these on the wall as the entry to the exhibit.

Two of the three exhibition cases that make up the exhibition.

The next challenge was locating secondary sources that would provide some historical context for every student. The subjet liaison for WGS, Erin Pappas, consulted with the whole class and then worked with individual students facing particularly difficult challenges. Some students who initially thought they couldn’t find any relevant information experienced the thrill of locating material, as when Erin helped Emily Breeding find information about the Lynchburg NAACP at Emory University. A quick call to Emory produced the information Emily needed for her article.

Condensing all of the information students had found into succinct labels was the greatest challenge of the course. Students were shocked to realize how little can be said in 150 words. Through multiple drafts, rigorous peer editing, and feedback from Molly and Holly, students all succeeded in crafting labels that draw the viewer in to the exhibit without providing too much detail. Writing longer articles enabled students to develop their insights in more detail for the accompanying blog.

Throughout this course, the students worked incredibly hard both on their own projects and on their thoughtful contributions to the collective project. I have never seen undergraduates edit each other’s work with such care and insight. The knowledge that this work mattered, that the exhibit would be available to the general public and visiting scholars, inspired a level of commitment and mutual support that is truly rare—in undergraduate seminars and in workplaces more generally. The students learned important skills in managing a complex project, working with others, and contributing to a shared product. At moments, they got incredibly frustrated, but then pulled together and took the project to a higher level. It was a true joy to be involved in this project.

Visitors interact with the blog on an iPad and peruse the artifacts on display during the exhibition opening party.

“The Sounds and Silences of Black Girlhood” will be on view in the first floor gallery at the Harrison-Small building through March 24, 2017.

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MLK Day Special: Black Girlhood Exhibition is now open!

We are so pleased to announce that our latest mini-exhibition, The Sounds and Silences of Black Girlhood, is now open. This exhibition was coordinated by Cori Field and curated by her students in her class last fall, “Women and Gender Studies 4559: A Global History of Black Girlhood.” It was a real pleasure working with these talented and driven students.

This exhibition is associated with two events that are open to all:

  • Final Friday Exhibition Opening, hosted by the students!: Friday, January 27, 2017, Harrison Small First Floor Gallery
  • The Global Black Girlhood Conference, which is taking place in the Harrison Small Auditorium March 17-18. Details at the conference website.

Below are some tantalizing images of the exhibition. Come by the gallery and check it out! The exhibition runs through March 24.

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Researching William Butler Yeats in Special Collections

(Note: This is the second of three posts by students enrolled this past Fall in ENNC 3240: Professor Andrew Stauffer’s course in Victorian Poetry. The three students–Heather Jorgenson [read her post here], Ann Nicholson, and Eva Alvarado–elected to participate in a U.Va. Library “Libratory.” Originally proposed by the University Library Committee, and coordinated by Chris Ruotolo, Director of Arts and Humanities for the U.Va. Library, a Libratory is a one-credit library lab attached to selected courses each academic term. Participating students work with their professor and a librarian to undertake a course-related research project involving extensive use of library materials. Heather, Ann, and Eva spent considerable time in Special Collections studying books and manuscripts by a Victorian poet of their choosing. Then each prepared a 20-minute class presentation accompanied by a special exhibition of selected Special Collections materials. They have kindly agreed to share their experiences here. In this post, Ann Nicholson discusses her work on William Butler Yeats.)

As a supplement to Professor Stauffer’s Victorian Poetry class, I had the opportunity to work in the Special Collections Library, where I conducted research on William Butler Yeats, one of the poets that we discussed in class.

My first approach to exploring Special Collections was to look for differences between the “Irish Yeats” and the “English Yeats,” for he moved back and forth between England and Ireland throughout his life. Yeats was born in Sandymount, Ireland on June 13, 1865, and he was proud of his Irish heritage, which is reflected in his early writings, such as The King’s Threshold (1904), a play written for the Abbey Theater in Dublin. Although this play was both published and performed in Ireland, the two editions found in Special Collections were not published in Dublin, but rather by the Macmillan Company in New York and London—showing Yeats’ ability to reach a wider audience beyond simply the people of Ireland.

Front cover of William Butler Yeats, The Tower (London: Macmillan, 1928) (PR5904 .T6 1928)

Front cover of William Butler Yeats, The Tower (London: Macmillan, 1928) (PR5904 .T6 1928)

Another work published by Macmillan and found in Special Collections is The Tower, Yeats’ first major collection as a Nobel Laureate after receiving the Nobel Prize in 1923. The title refers to the Thoor Ballylee, a Norman Tower that Yeats purchased and restored in 1917, and where he spent his summers until 1928. Thomas Sturge Moore, an English poet, artist, and long-term friend and correspondent of Yeats, created the cover design. On the light green cloth cover there is a gold woodcut-style image that portrays Thoor Ballylee and its reflection in the water.

A typical Cuala Press title page. (PR5904 .W5 1917)

A typical Cuala Press title page. (PR5904 .W5 1917)

Characteristic Cuala Press typography: a page from W. B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole (Churchtown: Cuala Press, 1917) (PR5904 .W5 1917)

Characteristic Cuala Press typography: a page from W. B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole (Churchtown: Cuala Press, 1917) (PR5904 .W5 1917)

I was particularly interested in finding books published by the Cuala Press, the printing press founded and operated by Yeats’ sister Elizabeth in Dublin. The books printed by the Cuala Press are distinguished by their uniform specifications, such as Caslon Old Face 14-point size font, 22-centimeter height, and blue-grey Ingres paper for the binding. Another characteristic of these books is the use of red ink, such as for the unicorn device found in The Wild Swans at Coole (1917) in Special Collections. This image of a sleeping unicorn was drawn by Robert Gregory, an Irish artist. Another image of a unicorn can be found in Last Poems and Two Plays (1939). An exception to these specifications is On the Boiler (1939), which is a political essay written by Yeats and printed commercially in Dublin by Alex Thom and Co., Ltd. for the Cuala Press. There is a drawing by Jack B. Yeats on the front cover.

An image of a sleeping unicorn, drawn by Robert Gregory, appearing in W. B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole (Churchtown: Cuala Press, 1917) (PR5904 .W5 1917)

An image of a sleeping unicorn, drawn by Robert Gregory, appearing in W. B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole (Churchtown: Cuala Press, 1917) (PR5904 .W5 1917)

Another unicorn image, from W. B. Yeats, Last Poems and Two Plays (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1939) (PR5900 .A3 1939)

Another unicorn image, from W. B. Yeats, Last Poems and Two Plays (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1939) (PR5900 .A3 1939)

Front cover of W. B. Yeats, On the Boiler (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1939) (PR5904 .O6 1939)

Front cover of W. B. Yeats, On the Boiler (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1939) (PR5904 .O6 1939)

One of Yeats’ poems that we had discussed in class was “When You Are Old,” and so, I was also hoping to find books in Special Collections that contained this poem. In addition to finding it in multiple sources, including The Macmillan Company’s Poems (1895) and T. Fisher Unwin’s Early Poems and Stories (1925), I discovered that Special Collections also has an autograph manuscript. I also noticed discrepancies between the different publications of the poem, which sparked another area for me to explore.

A manuscript of the poem "When You Are Old," written and signed by William Butler Yeats sometime during the 1930s, per the printed address. (MSS 4243)

A manuscript of the poem “When You Are Old,” written and signed by William Butler Yeats sometime during the 1930s, per the printed address. (MSS 4243)

Yeats wrote the poem “When You Are Old” following the rejection of his marriage proposal by the beautiful actress Maud Gonne in 1891. The poem first appeared in The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics, which was published in 1892 by T. Fisher Unwin in London, and reprinted in 1893 by Roberts Bros. in Boston. In both publications the poem stands alone as an uncollected work. However, the lyrics were revised and collected under the title “The Rose” before the first edition of Yeats’ Poems was published 1895 by T. Fisher Unwin. Yeats again revised the poem for the 1899 edition of Poems. Poems was reprinted again in 1901, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1919, and 1920 with no revisions made to “When You Are Old.” In the prefaces to the 1912 and 1920 editions of Poems, Yeats writes that “he ha[s] not again retouched the lyric poems of my youth,” thus the 1901 text of the poem “When You are Old” became the standard version. This can be further confirmed in other publications of the poem, such as Macmillan and Co’s Early Poems and Stories (1925), which contains the same version of the poem.

Original version of the poem, "When You Are Old," as it appears in W. B. Yeats, Poems (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1895) (PR5900 .A3 1895)

Original version of the poem, “When You Are Old,” as it appears in W. B. Yeats, Poems (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1895) (PR5900 .A3 1895)

The autograph manuscript in Special Collections of “When You Are Old” lacks a date, but it contains a telephone number in the top left corner and the address Riversdale, Willbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin—the address of Yeats’ last Irish home that he signed the lease for in July 1932. He lived at this home with his wife, George, and two children Anne and Michael, and it was also the setting for his last meeting with Maud Gonne in the summer of 1938. In addition to Yeats’ home address being an indicator of time, letters written by Yeats on the same stationery can help confirm the date of the manuscript. For example, there is a manuscript currently located at the National Library of Ireland that is a 1935 correspondence between W.B. Yeats and Lennox Robinson. Furthermore, another factor used in determining the manuscript’s date is the text itself, for it is the standard version.

Revised version of the poem, "When You Are Old," as it appears in W. B. Yeats, Collected Works in Verse and Prose (Stratford-on-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1908) (PR5900 .A3 1908 v.1). Note the changes in the last stanza.

Revised version of the poem, “When You Are Old,” as it appears in W. B. Yeats, Collected Works in Verse and Prose (Stratford-on-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1908) (PR5900 .A3 1908 v.1). Note the changes to the last stanza; the same changes appear in the manuscript (shown above).

Above are images of the poem “When You Are Old” as it appears in Poems (1895), in The Collected Works in Verse and Prose (1908), and in the manuscript (post-1932).

― Ann Nicholson

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Patron’s Choice: Readers Reading Hannah Foster’s The Coquette

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post from Amanda Stuckey, who visited the collections earlier this year as a Lillian Gary Taylor Fellow in American Literature Mary and David Harrison Institute

In an undated (ca. early 20th-century) letter tucked into the first edition of Hannah Foster’s bestselling novel The Coquette (1797) in the Small Library, reader Robert Taylor questions the judgment of the novel’s heroine. Taylor writes that he perused the story of Eliza Wharton, found it “interesting reading,” and even shed a tear or two when he reached the novel’s final lines consisting of the unfortunate protagonist’s epitaph. Yet, Taylor notes, even as he mingled his tears “with those shed upon the tombstone of the ill-fated Eliza; and observe her age as inscribed therein, I am constrained to contend that she was old enough to know better.”

Even though “the book” seems to have all but disappeared in an age of digital reproduction and online catalogues, as contemporary readers we nonetheless exist in a world saturated with text. So much text to be scrolled, contemplated, “liked,” re-tweeted, or simply ignored, that the line between “seeing” text and “reading” it can become unclear. Yet the act of requesting and opening a book like The Coquette from a library that so values the material and physical presence of words, of texts, reminds us that we are here to read. Only seventeen first editions of The Coquette remain, and like many first editions, UVA’s copy has an aura surrounding it; carefully lifting it out of the box cut to fit its exact dimensions, an eager reader might wonder how many other people like Taylor have lifted the unassuming, dulled brown cover to turn tenderly through the weathered but still-sturdy pages. How many others have read on those very pages the story, over two centuries old, of Eliza Wharton, who struggles on the marriage market during the years after the nation-defining struggle of the American Revolution.

The custom box holding the library's copy of the first edition of The Coquette (Taylor 1797 . F68 C6). Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg

The custom box holding the library’s copy of the first edition of The Coquette (Taylor 1797 . F68 C6). Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg

Eliza, an unmarried woman from Connecticut, finds herself caught between two suitors: the rational, respectable Reverend Boyer and the dashing but reprehensible Major Sanford. Just as Eliza’s friends – and her readers – think she is going to make the “right” decision and accept Boyer’s hand in marriage, he catches her in compromising circumstances (by late eighteenth-century standards, at least) in a secluded garden with Sanford. Boyer rescinds his marriage proposal, and by the end of the novel Eliza finds herself pregnant, close to death, and all but abandoned by Sanford, the seducing rake who never planned to marry her in the first place. The catch to which reader Robert Taylor referred? Eliza was thirty-seven when she became pregnant and subsequently died, seemingly bereft of the innocence, virtue, and education that almost four decades of sound friendship and parental guidance sought to instill in her. Eliza’s fatal carelessness in her choice of suitors seemed, to Taylor at least, befitting of a younger woman, one less familiar with the treacherous wiles of men. Indeed, Eliza Wharton could have been mother of her fictional contemporary Charlotte Temple, whose similar fate of seduction, pregnancy, and death at the ripe age of fifteen was the subject of another bestselling novel of the late eighteenth century. “Old enough to know better,” perhaps, Eliza nonetheless is doomed from the novel’s start. Even Foster’s title, a reference to behavior that eighteenth-century audiences associated with flirtatiousness, promiscuity, and an inability to commit, seems to belie the years Eliza had to walk a straight course.

Whenever I read The Coquette, I find myself frustrate–not with Eliza’s seeming inability to make the “right” decision between two men of completely opposite character, but more so with the fact that even now, ten years after I first read the novel, I still read it with a sense of dread, with the feeling that if she’d just settle down with Boyer, she might have a shot at making it out of the novel alive. The genre of seduction fiction into which The Coquette falls is a supremely predictable one, and Eliza is perhaps its most famous example. Each time I read the novel I ask myself, how can I possibly read this differently? How can I assign new meaning to Eliza’s doomed thirty-seven years? What more can I say about her all-too-certain fate, a fate that even Eliza seems to sense as the novel comes to a close?

With those questions in mind, I pondered each of the novel’s 242 pages, seeking answers and new clarity. It was not until I reached very last page that I sat up a little straighter in my chair, pulled out of my contemplations by three simple characters in ink:

The final two pages of "The Coquette," which include a rendering of the text on Eliza's gravestone.

The final two pages of “The Coquette,” which include a rendering of the text on Eliza’s gravestone. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg

 

 

A detailed image showing where a reader has edited Eliza's age from 37 to 27. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg

A detailed image showing where a reader has edited Eliza’s age from 37 to 27. Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg

Twenty-seven? One reader felt so convinced that a woman of thirty-seven could not possibly have fallen victim to one man’s practiced, seductive wiles that this reader had to “correct” the official record of Eliza’s age? So convinced that this reader not only altered Eliza’s epitaph but also felt the need to write it again, to underline it, in case we had any doubt that thirty-seven is way too old to be hanging out in gardens with a known libertine.

Whenever I teach an early American work of fiction, one that is likely digitized through my institution’s library or other vast internet repository, I encourage my students to seek out a physical copy of the book, preferably a first or early edition, housed in a nearby archive or in their university’s own special collections. If we’re lucky, the university’s special collections library will have a first edition, and I ask students to first read a digitized or contemporary scholarly edition of the work and to think about the experience of reading in their present moment. Then students venture out to their special collections library to request a first or early edition of the same novel, to gently lift the cover softened by wear, to delicately turn the pulpy yellowed pages, and to imagine what it might have meant to be reading this work in, say, 1797. Afterward, they write up a brief comparison of the two reading experiences, discussing what surprised them or caught their attention in reading the same book two different ways. These assignments repeatedly demonstrate to me the importance of paying attention to the experience of reading, an experience that today can take so many forms that we almost don’t even notice that we’re reading something when we’re reading it. These assignments have taught my students and me that the experience of reading means different thing to different people, and that we bring our own frames of reference to the text each time we read a book. There is a saying attributed to a Greek philosopher that you can’t step into the same river twice, and the archive continually shows my students and me that you can’t always step into the same book twice. It is different each time we read it, and often that difference comes not from the answers we demand from the book but from the way we let the book speak to us.

And, as it turned out, I’d been asking the wrong questions. I needed to start not with “I” the reader, but with a broader sense of readership, of a recognition that this novel, though it has ridden high crests and low troughs of popularity throughout its life, nonetheless has been read for over two hundred years. The solitary figure of the reader – the “I” – shrinks before The Coquette’s well-worn pages in recognition of just how many fingers have turned them. From the copy in Small Special Collections, modified so minimally yet so insistently, I find myself asking questions that start not with “I” but with how. How have people read this novel? How might previous ways of reading this novel change, affect, influence, the way we read –not just this novel but any text, any book, periodical, or blog? These interjections from the past into our present invite us to look at a familiar text differently, and moreover they invite us to consider the act of reading itself. In a world saturated with multimedia text, the physical presence of the book makes us aware that we’re reading.

That’s what these two numbers, three inked characters, did when I finished up the first edition of The Coquette in Small Special Collections. They spoke to me, caught me off guard, even in the final, oh-so-predictable (I thought) words of the novel. They made me envision another person holding that volume, made me wonder about someone so certain that Eliza just had to be twenty-seven, while I had paid at best scant attention to her age. I have other questions for this novel and its reader(s) – why, for example, was it Eliza’s responsibility to “know better?” For that matter, is thirty-seven really old? Why aren’t we talking about how old Sanford is here? But more important, once I turned the final page, was the way in which this volume – with Robert Taylor’s enclosed letter and the marginalia of an unknown reader – generated these questions from a book I had stepped into once again, a book made almost entirely new thanks to the readings of other readers.

Thanks, Amanda, for sharing your reading room “aha” moment with the blog!

 

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Robert Browning as Seen from Special Collections

(Note: This is the first of three posts by students enrolled this past Fall in ENNC 3240: Professor Andrew Stauffer’s course in Victorian Poetry. The three students–Heather Jorgenson, Ann Nicholson, and Eva Alvarado–elected to participate in one of the U.Va. Library’s initial “Libratories.” Originally proposed by the University Library Committee, and coordinated by Chris Ruotolo, Director of Arts and Humanities for the U.Va. Library, a Libratory is a one-credit library lab attached to selected courses each academic term. Participating students work with their professor and a librarian to undertake a course-related research project involving extensive use of library materials. Heather, Ann, and Eva spent considerable time in Special Collections studying books and manuscripts by a Victorian poet of their choosing. Then each prepared a 20-minute class presentation accompanied by a special exhibition of selected Special Collections materials. They have kindly agreed to share their experiences here. In this initial post, Heather Jorgenson discusses her work on Robert Browning.)

Throughout one’s college experience, academic opportunities present themselves and allow for a more creative, enriching, and memorable learning environment. The 2016 Fall semester sparked the first Libratory independent study and provided three students in ENNC 3240 with the opportunity to prepare a twenty-minute presentation on a topic in Victorian Poetry using the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library’s nearly boundless resources and fantastic staff.

The system used to find and request specific works from the library is called Virgo, and it proved instrumental as a catalogue of all available works by Robert Browning—the particular Victorian poet I chose. Special Collections happens to hold over one hundred of Browning’s works, which both lengthened the research process and led me to seek additional assistance from David Whitesell, a curator at the library. My only qualm with Virgo lies in the lack of visual representation—with David’s help I could view all of Browning’s work at the same time to identify any underlying themes and to investigate the hidden gems found in the library.

What I decided to include in my presentation were eighteen volumes dating from 1835 to 1910, showcasing the many forms and levels of craftsmanship present in these separate works. Some of these differences arose from multiple copies of the same book. By comparing and contrasting these copies, my presentation illustrated the unique nature of these older volumes, as well as the close relationship between reader, writer, and bookmaker which seems to have been stronger in the past than it is today.

Original pencil sketch in Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 2. Number 119 of 125 copies.

Original pencil sketch in Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 2. Number 119 of 125 copies.

I saw many books with personalized details—many of them had inscriptions, while others included letters or sketches. These made each book feel more special and the entire research process more exciting as I knew I would likely find something interesting in almost every one I looked at.

Original pencil sketch in Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 2. Number 119 of 125 copies.

Original pencil sketch in Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 2. Number 119 of 125 copies.

The library has 2 copies of the 1897 edition of Browning’s Poems. Copy 2 features original pencil sketches, but it also includes a cut and pasted Robert Browning signature, while copy 1 features a leather binding by the Guild of Women Binders with flowers, figures, and words from Browning’s work on the covers. In comparing both copies, I saw a sharp contrast between the amount of attention placed on the outside and the inside, since copy 1 does not include other features in its first few pages and copy 2 has a plain red leather binding with gold accents, in contrast to the detailed leatherwork found in copy 1.

Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 1. Number 116 of 125 copies. This copy features a binding by the Guild of Women Binders with fantastic leather-work on the covers.

Robert Browning, Poems (1897), copy 1. Number 116 of 125 copies. This copy features a binding by the Guild of Women Binders with fantastic leather-work on the covers.

I also found books containing letters. In fact, while reading volume 2 of The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, I encountered a facsimile on page 567 of a letter from Elizabeth to Robert Browning with a small note at the end directing the reader to page 443 of volume 1. After seeing this note, my curiosity was piqued and I rushed to look at volume 1, but at that point the library was about to close and I could not request any more items. Having to wait until the following day, I requested the book as soon as I could and opened it to page 443 to find: a printed version of the facsimile letter. I found this to be thought-provoking because, although not the first handwritten letter I had encountered, it was the only inter-volume communication I has seen in my research thus far.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (1868), volume 1. Pasted-in letter from "Louise" to R. h. Collins.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (1868), volume 1. Pasted-in letter from “Louise” to R. H. Collins.

This copy reflects an attribute of many of these books in that it was originally given as a gift. Per the presentation letter pasted in the front, “Louise” gifted it as a Christmas present to R.H. Collins in 1868, the year of its publication. I found this particular book fascinating because it also includes detailed inscriptions written by R.H. Collins—we know they were written by her because she wrote her name after the pictured letter and the other writings are in the same handwriting. In the front of the book she quoted several passages, presumably her favorites, with page numbers. Then, in the back of the book, she wrote what appear to be responses to the text. This amazed me because I could see the level of connection she had to this book in her inscriptions and also in the letter which originally went along with the gift.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (1868), volume 1. Pasted-in letter from "Louise" to R. h. Collins.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (1868), volume 1. Pasted-in letter from “Louise” to R. H. Collins.

I have seen many amazing books in my research—I have held a first edition of Paracelsus from the McGregor Library, a fully illustrated copy of Pippa Passes, and an original Robert Browning signature—and discovering what makes them unique and powerful has made this experience worthwhile and enjoyable. The process of turning through each and every page can seem grueling at first. However, the more you look the more you will find, and where else can you feel like a detective, a scholar, and a little kid at the toy store all at the same time?

Here is the complete list of featured works from my presentation; I strongly recommend visiting the Special Collections Library and requesting these items, or any others that interest you.

  1. Paracelsus (E 1835 .B76 P3)
  2. Sordello (E 1840 .B76 S6)
  3. Bells and Pomegranates (PR 4202 .M68 1841  copies 1-2)
  4. Christmas Eve and Easter Day (PR 4222 .C49 1850  copies 1-3)
  5. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (PR 4200 1868   1)
  6. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (PR 4202 .T3 1872   1)
  7. Asolando (PR 4222 .A7 1890  copy 1)
  8. The Complete Poetic and Dramatic Works of Robert Browning (PR 4200 1895)
  9. Poems (PR 4202 .G37 1897  copies 1-2)
  10. The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett (PR 4231 .A3 1899  1-2)
  11. Pippa Passes (PR 4218 .A1 1900)
  12. Browning Year Book (PR 4203 .T8 1909)
  13. Robert Browning’s Complete Works  (PR 4200 1910)

― Heather Jorgenson

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On View Now: Sacred Spaces: The Home and Poetry of Anne Spencer

Our latest exhibition, Sacred Spaces: The Home and Poetry of Anne Spencer, offers a glimpse into the exquisite world of Civil Rights activist, librarian, gardener, and poet Anne Spencer (1882–1975). Spencer spent over fifty years turning her house and her garden into a more beautiful and gentle world than the one outside her gates.

Inspired by the photographs taken by noted architectural and landscape photographer John Hall, the exhibition explores how each space was sacred in its own unique way. In “Any Wife to Any Husband, A Derived Poem,” Spencer writes, “This small garden is half my world.” With a myriad of flowers, a lily pool, and a cottage study, Anne’s garden was her own private poetic Eden. At the same time, her house, the other half of her world, was a welcome refuge for African Americans who would have been prevented from finding lodging in Lynchburg because of the color of their skin. The Spencers hosted civil rights activists, writers, and other famous African Americans such as Gwendolyn Brooks, George Washington Carver, Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Thurgood Marshall, and even Martin Luther King Jr.

House case

However, for Spencer, poetic creation and political activism were not separated by the boundaries of architecture. Rather, they were wreathed together by Spencer’s own hand in the house and in the garden. She wrote about politics on seed packets and gardening catalogues in her garden cottage, but at the same time, a poem she wrote about her favorite flower, “Lines to a Nasturtium (A Lover Muses)” is, to this day, painted on the kitchen wall.

Shown here is a packet of seeds that Spencer wrote notes on and a copy of Dreer's Garden Book with an unpublished poem

Shown here is a packet of seeds that Spencer used to take notes  and a copy of Dreer’s Garden Book , open to  an unpublished poem

The exhibition is broken down into three parts—house, garden, and garden cottage (known as “Edankraal”)— in order to show how politics and poetry, public and private, the past and the present converge in the sacred spaces Anne Spencer created. To compliment John Hall’s stunning photographs of the house and garden, we have tried to fashion each of Spencer’s sacred spaces through the physical artifacts—manuscripts, books, letters, gardening paraphernalia— she left behind.

“Sacred Spaces” is on view through January 27, 2017 in the first floor gallery of the Harrison Small building. Spencer’s home is open to the public today as the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum. For more information, see annespencermuseum.com. To learn more about John M. Hall’s photography, please visit www.johnmhallphotographs.com.

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Researching the 1918 Flu Epidemic in Virginia

In 1918, a new strain of influenza swept around the world. Before it was done, it had killed approximately 30 million people. In the United States at least 750,000 died in only a few months—the equivalent today of almost 2.5 million.  When the epidemic arrived in Virginia, 25% to 30% of the population caught the virus and thousands died, including six U.Va. students and a nationally known faculty member.

Addeane Caelleigh is researching the epidemic in Virginia.  When she retired recently from the School of Medicine, she immediately began work in archives and libraries, including the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library and the Historical Collections archive in the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.  “I’ve long been interested in how communities respond in extreme situations, such as natural disasters and epidemics,” she explained.

Addeane uncovered emotionally powerful manuscripts here in Special Collections, including handwritten letters about family experiences with the disease and official documents about U.Va.’s response to the crisis. She also found a photograph of George F. Ferguson, M.D., an African-American physician in Charlottesville who cared for many during the epidemic.

flu_ferguson

Dr. George F. Ferguson poses with his children in this family portrait by Charlottesville photographer Rufus Holsinger taken a few years after the flu crisis, in 1922. (MSS 9862, available online).

Notably, Addeane is among the first researchers to have the opportunity to view a UVA Hospital admissions ledger for 1915-1919, where she can track the diagnoses—and deaths—of patients from around the region.

flue_ledgers

On the left are diagnosis entries in the hospital ledger from 1917, before the influenza outbreak. On the right, an entry from 1918, showing starkly the epidemic’s impact on the community.

Until recently researchers could not use the ledger because of restrictions imposed by the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which protects the confidentiality of patient information. In 2014, Congress allowed an exception for historical research, and Ms. Caelleigh has collected invaluable data about hospital patients with influenza, helping to expand understanding the epidemic in Virginia. Studying issues of the Daily Progress, which is available digitally through UVA Libraries, enables her to reveal details of the community’s responses.

Overall, her research is building a picture of both the epidemic and the community’s responses. “Interestingly, as deadly as the epidemic was locally and nationally, it seems to have dropped out of sight in local memory,” she noted. Her research adds an important understanding of how a major event can unite a community.

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On View Now: Sisters of the Press: Radical Feminist Literature, 1967-1977

This week we are pleased to feature a post by graduate student Kelly Fleming. Kelly is a Ph.D. candidate in English and a curatorial assistant in Special Collections. She writes for us here about her first solo exhibition.

The word “feminist” is lit up in bright lights these days, and not just thanks to Beyoncé. Celebrities use their place in the spotlight to complain about the gender wage gap. Young women wear t-shirts with a crowned Ruth Bader Ginsburg, emblazoned with the words “Notorious RBG.” Students, unprompted, use the word “intersectional” in my classroom, deploying a piece of feminist terminology that was coined the year I was born.

Fifty years ago, in 1966, when Betty Friedan and other feminists formed the National Organization of Women (NOW), their statement of purpose declared, “The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” While we still need to work toward a “truly equal partnership” in this country, feminism has become mainstream. In fact, it has hit mainstream society with such force and such flare that there is debate about the rise of a new wave, as well as new names: “pop feminism” and “marketplace feminism.” At least in part, we are living out Friedan’s dream in this very moment.

Yet in this moment, we are at risk of forgetting the women who wore the word “feminist” like a medal of honor into battle. Perhaps because they did not want to be part of “mainstream” American society, the achievements and work of radical feminists are the most often forgotten. “Sisters of the Press: Radical Feminist Literature, 1967–1977” is an attempt to shed light on this particular history of feminism.

Radical feminists took the second-wave feminist mantra—the personal is political— and made it into a lifestyle. Because they believed that American society was underpinned by a patriarchal system stretching back centuries, they sought to destroy its institutions, hierarchies, and beliefs. To work within the system was to be complicit in the oppression of all American women by men, a fact that the “mainstream” feminist movement, epitomized by NOW, would not formally acknowledge. As a result of this conviction, radical feminists did more than just join consciousness-raising groups. They formed collectives, they lived in non-hierarchical all-female communities, and they dispensed plastic speculums for personal use. But more than anything else, they wrote. They penned scathing critiques in easily disseminated materials, such as manifestos, periodicals, pamphlets, petitions, and flyers, that circulated to sisters nationwide and that provided the basis for radical action.

Smash Sexism

Detail from the February/March 1973  issue of the radical feminist periodical, Off Our Backs.  (HQ1101. O34 v.3 no.6)

While these radical feminists texts may not be as famous as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949), or Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique (1963), their clear, concise messages still inspire change today. I am not alone in having read the Radicalesbian’s essay, “Woman-Identified Woman,” during my undergraduate studies, and imagine my excitement (which was effusive), when I found that we had Rita Mae Brown’s personal copy, complete with editorial marks, in the archives.

Woman Identified Woman

Shown here is  last page of the essay, with the signatures of co-founder Rita Mae Brown and other members of the Radicalesbians. (MSS 12019)

Another item in the exhibition that I know has impacted women today, and women at UVA in particular, is a letter from a feminist group called the Women’s Alliance. UVA did not admit female undergraduates until 1970 and only did so then because it was court mandated. In response to the “traditional sex stereotyping” female students continued to see in UVA classrooms, the Women’s Alliance demanded in 1977 that the university hire more female faculty members and create a women studies’ program. Even though radical feminists wanted to tear down institutions, their arguments did transform one institution, the university, from within. The UVA Women’s Center and the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program are the result of their efforts.

Women's Alliance Letter

The letter the Women’s Alliance sent to UVA President Hereford, regarding their petition for a women studies program, which reached nearly 3,000 signatures.  (RG-2/1/2.791)

“Sisters of the Press” may not be as powerful as Beyoncé standing in front of the word “feminist” at her concert, but it will remind of us of the women who were feminist before it was cool.

“Sisters of the Press” is on view through August 31st in the First Floor Gallery of the Harrison/Small Building. Come take a look!

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Shakespearean Insults: The Editorial Edition

Recount, O Muse, the editors who fell during the epic battle for Shakespeare’s words three centuries ago. Pope, that poetic genius, was blinded by Shakespeare’s meter; Theobald, may he rest in peace with his dictionaries, died of dulness; Johnson, the father of our language, was cut to the core by the Bard’s vulgar words; and Malone, the lone Irishman, lost his ear. In this, the battle of Shakespeare editions, each editor thought he was victorious. But alas! they all cried “huzzah!” too soon, for each editor soon felt the perfectly timed twist of the rhetorical knife or the slap of a rhetorical glove.

In all seriousness, over the course of the eighteenth century, editors battled with each other over the words of Shakespeare. The complicated work of editing Shakespeare began in earnest, arising from both the Enlightenment spirit of scholarship and a growing recognition of Shakespeare’s importance. Each editor sought to claim the “true” Shakespeare. Yet before the days of the First Folio’s renown (which Samuel Johnson first suggested editors use in 1765), editors typically used their predecessor’s editions as their base texts. They did not start with early folios or quartos, which were difficult to locate. For various reasons, each editor asserted the rightness of his own edition of Shakespeare, and as a result, each edition was met by equally strong criticism. Perfecting the noble art of the insult, editors padded their own editions with criticisms of their predecessors. In a few cases, they were so fired up they wrote entire books dedicated to explaining how their predecessors were wrong.

Our current exhibition, Shakespeare by the Book, has an entire section entitled “We Quarrel in Print: Editing Shakespeare.” Alongside books, it features a listicle of our favorite editorial insults from the eighteenth century, mined from the footnotes and the books in the exhibition. Read on to see the list in its entirety!

Editorial Insult Wall

Editor William Warburton on Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

A Wit indeed he was; but so utterly unacquainted with the Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the first Editions of the Work he undertook to publish; but contented himself with giving us a meagre Account of the Author’s Life, interlarded with some common-place Scraps from his Writings.

Editor Lewis Theobald on Alexander Pope’s 1725 editing of a passage in Hamlet (1726):

[N]o Body shall perswade me that Mr. Pope could be awake, and with his Eyes open, and revising a Book, which was to be publish’d under his Name, yet let an Error, like the following, escape his Observation and Correction.

Theobald's Shakespeare Restor'd

Lewis Theobald’s Shakespeare Restored is a  book entirely dedicated to criticizing Pope’s edition of Shakespeare.

Editor William Warburton on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on; and by that means got a Character of Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a better Talent.

Editor William Warburton on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on; and by that means got a Character of Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a better Talent.

Critic Thomas Edwards in a satirical “supplement” to William Warburton’s 1747 edition of Shakespeare (1748):

Poor Shakespear! your anomalies will do you no service, when once you go beyond Mr. Warburton’s apprehension; and you will find a profess’d critic is a terrible adversary, when he is thoroughly provoked: you must then speak by the card, or equivocation will undo you. How happy is it that Mr. Warburton was either not so attentive, or not so angry, when he read those lines in Hamlet,

Give me that Man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core; aye, in my heart of heart—

We should have then perhaps heard, that this was a way of speaking, that would have rather become an apple than a prince.

Alexander Pope satirizing the voice of Lewis Theobald in The Dunciad, who pays homage to the goddess Dulness with his edition of Shakespeare (1728):

Here studious I unlucky Moderns save,
Nor sleeps one error in its father’s grave,
Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek,
And crucify poor Shakespear once a week.
For thee I dim these eyes, and stuff this head,
With all such reading as was never read;
For thee supplying, in the worst of days,
Notes to dull books, and Prologues to dull plays;
For thee explain a thing ‘till all men doubt it,
And write about it, Goddess, and about it.

Samuel Johnson first on Alexander Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare…

This was a work which Pope seems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to suppress his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He understood but half his undertaking.

…and then on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition (1765):

Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension and small acquisitions, with no native and intrinsick splendour of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning.

Critic William Kenrick on a footnote in Samuel Johnson’s 1765 edition of Shakespeare (1765):

Had our editor nothing to offer better than this? And hath he so little veneration for Shakespeare, as so readily to countenance the charge against him of writing nonsense? Did you, Dr. Johnson, ever read the scene, wherein this passage occurs, quite through?

Critic Joseph Ritson on Edmund Malone’s 1790 edition of Shakespeare (1792):

But it is not the want of ear and judgement only of which I have to accuse Mr. Malone: he stands charged with divers other high crimes and misdemeanors against the divine majesty of our sovereign lord of drama; with deforming his text, and degrading his margin, by intentional corruption, flagrant misrepresentation, malignant hypercriticism, and unexampled scurrility. These charges shall be proved—not, as Mr. Malone proves things, by groundless opinion and confident assertion, but—by fact, argument and demonstration. How sayest thou, culprit? Guilty or not guilty?

Critic John Collins accusing George Steevens of bribing the printers to show him proof sheets so he could plagiarize Edward Capell’s 1768 edition of Shakespeare (1779):

You will then find, my Lord, a regular system of plagiarism, upon a settl’d plan pervading those later editions throughout, and that,—not [Doctor Johnson’s] former publication, as one would naturally suppose, but—Mr. Capell’s, in ten volumes, 1768, is made the ground-work for what is to pass for the genuine production of these combin’d editors, and is usher’d to the world upon the credit of their names…But I cannot help observing, —that such injustice, as requir’d the united efforts of effrontery and falsehood to conceal it, amounts to a full acknowledgement of the superior worth of the person injur’d, and is an undeniable argument of as much indigence on the one hand as of abundance on the other.”

Editor Thomas Caldecott on the whole lot of his predecessors, in a review of Thomas Bowdler’s Family Shakespeare (1822):

In spite of the national veneration universally felt for our great bard, he has been subjected, amongst us, to a series of more cruel mutilations and operations than any other author who has served to instruct or amuse his posterity. Emendations, curtailments, and corrections (all for his own good) have been multiplied to infinity, by the zeal and care of those who have been suffered to take him in hand. They have purged and castrated him, and tattoed and be-plaistered him, and cauterized and phlebotomized him, with all the studied refinement, that the utmost skill of critical barbarity could suggest. Here ran Johnson’s dagger through, “see what a rent envious Pope has made,” and “here the well-beloved Bowdler stabbed:” while, after every blow, they pause for a time and with tiresome diligence unfold the cause why they that did love him while they struck him, have thus proceeded.

If you would like to see more editors behaving badly, come see Shakespeare by the Book in person. The exhibition runs through December 29th, 2016, with the Folger Shakespeare’s Library’s First Folio making its appearance for the month of October.

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Mining the Ores of Breece D’J Pancake’s Life and Works

This week’s post is contributed by two visiting undergraduate researchers, Megan Flanery and Hunter Walsh, who traveled all the way from Southern Georgia University to examine our Breece D’J Pancake manuscript collection. They represent a growing demographic of Special Collections researchers, and one that we value deeply here at UVA: undergraduates with an understanding of the importance and value of archival research. Thank you, Megan and Hunter, for sharing your experience with us here on the blog!

Megan:

My colleague, Hunter Walsh, and I are both fourth-year undergraduate students at Georgia Southern University, and we will be graduating in the fall of this year. We were first introduced to Breece Pancake’s short story collection in 2014, when we studied his text under the direction of Dr. Olivia Carr Edenfield during her course on the American short story. Although we approach Pancake’s fiction from very different angles, both Mr. Walsh and I will present our undergraduate capstone projects on Pancake’s work. Our archival work at The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library has broadened our understanding of Pancake’s short, yet accomplished life. Our ultimate goal is to shed light on Breece Pancake, an under-appreciated Appalachian author, and we hope to bring new perspectives to the limited critical conversation that surrounds his fiction.

, Megan Flanery is 21 years old and currently a senior at Georgia Southern University. Here, she will earn a BA in English with a minor in Philosophy, and she plans to continue her studies by attending graduate school at East Carolina University. The focus of her scholarship is American literature, particularly that of the twentieth century. She enjoys reading the works of authors such as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy and, especially, Breece Pancake.

Originally from Michigan but now a Georgia resident, Megan Flanery is 21 years old and currently a senior at Georgia Southern University. Here, she will earn a BA in English with a minor in Philosophy, and she plans to continue her studies by attending graduate school at East Carolina University. The focus of her scholarship is American literature, particularly that of the twentieth century. She enjoys reading the works of authors such as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy and, especially, Breece Pancake.

Hunter:

Megan and I uncovered a countless amount of material. We found family photographs, postcards, interviews, and even personal letters from and to Breece Pancake. For me, these are all extremely interesting artifacts and sources that have really molded my study of Pancake’s work. The material I recovered has shed new light on his personal life and his relationships. Since I am interested in the family unit in Breece Pancake’s short fiction, this research has really opened up my reading. Breece’s biographical accounts of his life and his own admission to incorporating true elements into his writing offered even more insight into the familial relations in his writing. This was my first time doing archival research and I cannot thank the University of Virginia and Professor John Casey enough for allowing me this opportunity. The staff at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library were friendly and a tremendous support as well.

Hunter Walsh is an English major and Writing minor. He hails from Bristol, Virginia and is recipient of the 2015 Powell Award for Fiction Writing. His paper, “The Family in the Life and Works of Breece D’J Pancake,” examines the life and writings of Breece D’J Pancake. It documents Pancake’s personal experience with family and isolation, while highlighting these themes, via his experiences and perceptions, in his short fiction.

Hunter Walsh is an English major and Writing minor. He hails from Bristol, Virginia and is recipient of the 2015 Powell Award for Fiction Writing. His paper, “The Family in the Life and Works of Breece D’J Pancake,” examines the life and writings of Breece D’J Pancake. It documents Pancake’s personal experience with family and isolation, while highlighting these themes, via his experiences and perceptions, in his short fiction.

One of the most useful documents we unearthed is a catalog of the real sites and locations that have been included in Pancake’s work, written by his mother, Helen Frazier Pancake:

Box 1 of MSS10975-e, folder 5, holds a document titled “The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake – Locations and Sites,” written by Helen Pancake, Breece’s mother. The various sites, of which Pancake was well-acquainted, reveal how Pancake weaved his own memories into his fiction.

“The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake – Locations and Sites,” written by Helen Pancake, Breece’s mother. The various sites, with which Pancake was well-acquainted, reveal how Pancake weaved his own memories into his fiction. (MSS 10975-e 1.5)

My thesis is centered on memory and the negative effects of rumination and obsessive nostalgia; therefore, my research on Pancake’s own life has been crucial to understanding the ways in which memories affected him. His last letter, written to his major professor, Dr. John Casey, is filled with memories that Pancake was fixated upon:

Box 1 of MSS10975-a, folder 5, holds Breece Pancake’s last piece of correspondence. Shown here is the signature line, where he thanks the recipient, UVA’s Henry Hoynes Professor of Creative Writing John Casey. In the body of tje letter, he lists the various dates of the significant, yet traumatic, events that weighed on him. Two weeks after this letter was composed, Breece took his own life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Megan:

Although our study of Pancake’s life was dejecting at times, it allowed us both to appreciate Breece Pancake as a person, and not just as a writer. For now, our findings will be applied to some aspects of his fiction to highlight Pancake’s vexing themes; however, I plan to use this wealth of information to compose eventually a book-length study of Pancake’s life and works.

 

 

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