A Language of Song: The Cajuns

The series A Language of Song features the words of Samuel Charters and the recordings he produced as preserved in The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture at the University of Connecticut. The series is a tribute to the great Samuel Charters – poet, novelist, translator of Swedish poets, and renowned scholar of the blues, jazz, and musical culture of the African diaspora.  Samuel Charters died on March 18 at the age of 85.

cajunsfiddlepicIn the second post in the series, together with a personal remembrance by friend and UConn Libraries staff member Nicholas Eshelman, Mr. Charters describes his recording sessions in Louisiana with Cajun and Zydeco musicians including the great accordion player Nathan Abshire.

The sessions were released on a series of record albums including The Cajuns – Vol.1: Balfa Brothers Orchestra With Nathan Abshire (SNTF 643 Sonet, 1973).  All of the recordings were done at the La Louisianne Studio, Lafayette, Louisiana.  The Charters Archives holds the recordings and documents relating to the recordings, such as the studio log sheets.

Sonet Grammofon was interested in a wide range of American music, and over a period of several years I recorded a number of Cajun groups. The trips were usually in connection with other recordings that I was doing western Louisiana – often Rocking Dopsie – but also Bill Haley and the Comets, since I traveled to Nashville or Muscle Shoals for his albums. There was an initial double album set titled The Cajuns, and a number of individual Cajun albums, including a documentary of the famed Mamou Cajun Hour radio broadcasts from Fred’s Lounge on the main street of Mamou.Cajunscover

In December, 1972 I finished a session with Haley in Nashville and traveled on to Lafayette, Louisiana to do a broad documentation of the musical scene there. I worked with four groups, and rounded out the sessions with instrumental duets by talented accordion player Bessyl Duhon and a guitarist. The sessions captured exciting music that could not be duplicated, though I was able to record several other excellent groups a few years later. For this album the Balfa Brothers recorded with the great accordion player Nathan Abshire and the superb two violin team of Dewey Balfa and Merlin Fontenot, and on later recordings with the group neither Abshire or Fontenot took part. The Ardoin Brothers recorded with young Gus Ardoin playing the accordion, and he was tragically killed in a road accident only a few months later.

cajunslistI first met Sam Charters in 2001 when my wife, Kristin, took a job at UConn that included curatorship of the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture. Meeting Sam was a big deal for me because my brothers and I had grown up listening to the records he produced, pouring over his liner notes and learning more from his great book, The Country Blues.  This was in the 1970’s when finding the blues, jazz and folk LPs we loved in a small Pennsylvania town was nearly impossible, as was finding any good information on how the music came to be. This made every record we did scrounge up something  precious, to be listened to over and over, so for this I felt I owed him a great debt and was more than a little nervous about meeting him.

Sam and Ann had invited us to their home, and we were privileged for this to happen many more times over the years.  I realized I could spend all evening asking him questions like “Did you know Gary Davis?” “What was Moe Asch / Dewey Balfa / John Fahey like?”  And not just because he always graciously answered but also because there was no end to the list of remarkable people he’d known, produced, helped or counted as friends. But by then he’d given enough interviews in his life  that he’d grown weary of them and I certainly didn’t want to pester him, in his own living room, with questions he’d been asked thousands of times before. Besides, it was just as fun to talk to him and Ann about other things, such the differences between national styles of aquavit (with samples!) or to hear stories about his hunting caribou in Alaska (for subsistence, not sport)  or of the colorful artistic and literary types he and Ann knew in Sweden.

I had only known of Sam as a record producer and  scholar of folk music and jazz. I soon learned that he was also a novelist, poet, translator, excellent classical pianist, jug, cajunsabishirewashboard, banjo and clarinet player, Korean war veteran, art collector,  jazz musician and literary scholar. And I’ve probably left some things out.  He was also tireless.

Into his 70’s and 80’s he traveled extensively and seemed to never stop working or finding new additions to the Charters’ Archive. Crazy things would happen to him in his travels. On a trip to Scotland to visit his ancestral home town, he stopped to admire the sights and was approached by a local who recognized him. She was the co-owner of Document Records, a company that publishes meticulously documented collections of rare American music. She and her husband, the other co-owner, had been inspired by Sam and were great admirers. They invited Sam in to chat and the result was the UConn Archives receiving the huge full catalog of the Document label for inclusion in Sam and Ann’s collection.

It was a tremendous honor to know Sam Charters. I’ve never met anyone else like him and certainly never will again. His contribution to music, especially American music, is enormous and invaluable.  And even though Sam is gone, his work and the music he loved, studied and recorded will be with us forever. One of the last things I wrote to Sam was that the Charters’ archive is in good, loving hands. I know someone who will see to that.

- Nicholas Eshelman

 

Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers: From online access to scholarly production

Page of Correo de las Damas (title page)

Correo de las Damas (title page) First issue, 1804

Have you ever wondered what happens after a researcher uses one of our archival collections available online or as a digital surrogate? Sometimes online or remote users are hard to track and most of the time we are unaware of how they end up using our materials but sometimes we are lucky and they will contact us and share their work with us.

I am happy to report about three scholars (one from Japan and two from Spain) who shared their works and their thanks for giving them access to our collection of Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers.

From Japan

In 2009 we got a request to scan a copy of all the issues of the newspaper, El Ebusitano, the first weekly newspaper (1846-1847) in the island of Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands, Spain. Hirotaka Tateishi, professor and chairman of the Graduate School of Area and Culture Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, was tracking down this rare newspaper which was not available either in Ibiza or in Spain’s National Library, to clarify the real beginnings of this publication (who was the first editor, how long was published, where it was published, etc.). Professor Tateishi mentioned in his publication that he had found many references to the existence of the newspaper in old reference books, but always with the caveat that the author(s) had never been able to see the originals. Fortunately for Prof. Tateishi, the Archives and Special Collections was able to provide a digital surrogate of this newspaper title for his research since we had acquired this collection around the 1970s–a collection amassed by one of the most famous bibliophiles in Spain, Juan Pérez de Guzmán y Boza, Duque de T’ Serclaes. In 2010, Prof. Tateishi published his findings, ” “El Ebusitano”: el primer periódico de Ibiza en los fondos de una biblioteca americana” in an open access journal, Mediterranean world, published by the Mediterranean Studies Group at Hitotsubashi University,

From Spain

Beatriz Sánchez Hita and María Román López are scholars and collaborators from the University of Cádiz, Spain. Their research focus on the role of women in the shaping of the nascent printing culture (in the form of newspapers) in Spain during the 19th century. One of the newspapers that they were looking to have access to was El Correo de las Damas (1804-1808). Until recently this newspaper was very difficult to access by Spanish scholars since there are no copies available in any of their main libraries, including Spain’s National Library. We got a request from them in 2009 to photocopy all 15 tomes for this newspaper but we could not do so at the time because of preservation concerns. Instead, I decided to apply for a library grant to digitize all the tomes for this title, which became the beginning of our Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers digital collection, which not only comprised of a selection of women’s magazines, but also includes a selection of 18th and 19th century magazines (mainly literary) from this collection, for a total of 39 digitized titles.

Diario de Cádiz (title page). First issue, 1796

Diario de Cádiz (title page). First issue, 1796

Although María Román López visited us at the archives right after we finished the digitization of Correo de las Damas in September of 2009—to study the physical characteristics of this title—the majority of their research was done online. Prof. Beatriz Sánchez Hita benefited immediately with the new access of Correo de las Damas, and later on the Diario de Cádiz, and was able to finish two scholarly articles published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, about the role of women (as writers or as readers of newspapers) in the debates developing in the Spanish press regarding the Constitution of 1812, “Escritoras y Periodistas ante la Constitución de 1812 (1808-1823)” and the War of Independence (from France), “Las escritoras en la prensa de la Guerra de la Independencia vistas por sus colegas : ¿lucha de género o política?“.

More recently, in 2014, Beatriz Sánchez Hita and María Román López finished a massive analytical study (220 pages) titled, La prensa femenina en Cádiz a principios del siglo XIX Aproximación al Correo de las Damas (1804-1808), that focused on the:

 …study of the Correo de las Damas (1804-1808), a journal aimed at women that was published in Cadiz as a supplement to Diario Mercantil (1802-1814). It was edited by Joseph Lacroix, Baron of Bruère, and appeared in print with a total of 17 volumes, of which we had access to all except No. 16. The study includes a consideration of the figure of his editor and promoter, in order to proceed with the characterization of this magazine aimed at women, which has often been overlooked in the historiography of journalism, being still a rarity today. It devotes special attention to the description of its contents following their arrangement in teh (sic) pages of the journal (3).

As Sáchez and Román explained about the rarity of Correo de las Damas:

Esto se debe a que no parecen haber quedado colecciones del mismo en las principales bibliotecas españolas, no en vano solo hemos podido localizar este periódico en la colección J. Thomas Dodd, de la Universidad de Connecticut, donde se conservan los tomos 1 a 15 en SPAN PER 16, a los que desde hace poco tiempo puede accederse online (5).

This study is freely available at Cuadernos de Ilustración y Romanticismo, http://revistas.uca.es/index.php/cir/article/view/1920

As you can see, making accessible rare archival materials digitally has an immediate impact on the production of new scholarly knowledge as these examples illustrate. It is always satisfying to see how increasing access to these cultural heritage collections benefit not only our local users but the global community of scholars–specially scholars from the country where the records were created. We will continue preserving these invaluable cultural heritage collections and making them more accessible through digitization for many years to come.

Marisol Ramos, Curator of Latina/o, Latin American & Caribbean Collections

Thursday’s Teale Lecture: Ecological Imperialism Revisited – Disease, Commerce and Knowledge in a Global World

Mitman_film_class07_4808Four decades ago, the ideas put forth by Alfred Crosby and William McNeill in The Columbian Exchange and Plagues and Peoples forever changed the importance historians put on the role of cultural and biological exchange between the old and new world. The idea that the transfer of diseases from one population to another played as important a role in empire-building as our human conquests became embedded in our cultural narrative.

This Thursday, March 26, at 4 pm
 in the Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center, Gregg Mitman’s lecture examines how American military and industrial expansion overseas helped bring into being new views of nature and nation that would, in turn, become the scientific foundation upon which later historical narratives of ecological imperialism relied.  This event is free and open to the public.

Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His teaching and research interests span the history of science, medicine, and the environment in the United States and the world, and reflect a commitment to environmental and social justice.

The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series brings leading scholars and scientists to the University of Connecticut to present public lectures on nature and the environment.  The series is named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalist Edwin Way Teale, whose papers reside in UConn’s Archives and Special Collections.  

Co-sponsored by University of Connecticut Libraries, Human Rights Institute, Center for Conservation and Diversity, Graduate School, and several University departments including Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Economics, and Political Science.

Race and Anarchy Symposium This Week Features Alternative Press Collection

anarchy01Rare anarchist and race-related publications from the Alternative Press Collection are now on view in the Archives’ McDonald Reading Room.  The special exhibition in Archives and Special Collections is curated by Archivist Graham Stinnett and will launch the Race and Anarchy Symposium taking place at UConn on Thursday, March 26 through Friday, March 27.

Drawn from a wide-ranging collection of anarchist materials that dates from the late 1800s to the present, the selection on display includes ephemeral printings and periodicals of anarchist thinkers and collectives from the 1960s through the early 1990s.  Printed in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, the collection documents the international struggle against oppression and hierarchical structures. anarchy02

A viewing and reception at the Dodd Research Center is scheduled for 2:00pm to 3:30pm on March 26, before Opening Remarks at 3:30pm in the Class of 47 Room in Babbidge Library.

The Race and Anarchism Symposium is free and open to the public.  The symposium will offer explorations on theories and the history of anarchy when examined through the lens of critical work on class, gender, indigeneity, race, and sexuality.  Presenters include UConn faculty, grassroots organizers, and international scholars and theorists.

race-and-anarchy-finalThe event is co-sponsored by the African American Cultural Center, Africana Studies Institute, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, El Instituto, the Humanities Institute, the Philosophy Department, the Department of Political Science and the Rainbow Center at UCONN.

A Language of Song: Tribute to Samuel Charters

In tribute to the great Samuel Charters – poet, novelist, translator of Swedish poets, and renowned scholar of the blues, jazz, and musical culture of the African diaspora – we feature in coming weeks the words and recordings of Samuel Charters, collected and preserved in The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture at the University of Connecticut.  Samuel Charters died on March 18 at the age of 85.

MusicofNewOrleans_Page_01_webBefore Samuel Charters’ seminal book The Country Blues was published in 1959, Mr. Charters had been researching and conducting field recordings of the rich musical traditions of New Orleans. In his writings and interviews throughout his life, Mr. Charters often recalled his childhood, immersed in the sounds of classical music and jazz.  In 1956, Folkways Records released The Music of New Orleans.  The Music of the Streets.  The Music of Mardi Gras, recorded by Samuel Barclay Charters and produced by Moses Ash.  In his extensive liner notes, Mr. Charters writes:

“The aim of this group of recordings – done in the city in the seven years between 1951 and 1958 – was to find and preserve as much of the cities musical tradition as possible.  Here is the music of the brass bands, the dance halls, Mardi Gras, and the music of the streets themselves.  The music of shoe shine boys, vegetable criers, guitar players, and street evangelists.  The music that was recorded was as much as possible the distinctive music of the city.”

Mr. Charters’ book Jazz New Orleans, 1885-1957 followed in 1958.  In his inventory to The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture, Mr. Charters tells us the story behind the book:

“Walter C. Allen was a research chemist and jazz hobbiest who published a series of Jazz Monographs, of which this was Number 2. He was responsible for typing the manuscript and designing the book, which came out a few months after I sent him the manuscript. The book had involved several years of research in New Orleans and then a long period of writing, and my advance against royalties from Walter was $5, which even that long ago didn’t really seem like a lot of money.”

Excerpted below from the liner notes of The Music of New Orleans.  The Music of the Streets.  The Music of Mardi Gras., is Samuel Charters.  

New Orleans is a gentle, sprawling city lying between Mississippi River and Lake Panchartrain on the Mississippi delta in southern Louisiana.  In its early years the city grew beside the river, and against the levees the small streets follow its great crescent curve.  …MusicofNewOrleans_Page_09_web

The city’s remoteness and its colorful past have given it an easy self-assurance and a feeling of continuing tradition that is very different from anything else in America.  There is an open disinterest toward contemporary art, music and culture that dismays the energetic outsider who moves to the city.  There is almost as little conscious effort made to preserve the city’s own cultural traditions.  It is a relatively poor city, but it is a very relaxed city.  This may be because even in the poorer neighborhoods the streets are lined with one story wooden houses, rather than large tenements.  There is a feeling of spaciousness and sunlight.  The weather, despite the hot summers, is beautiful. … Living is relatively cheap, and between the docks and the tourists there is usually some kind of job around.  An old musician, laughing, said once, “It used to be if you had a minds to, you could go any place in the city and get a job on Monday morning because you ‘d be the only person around that felt like working.”  [Richard Alexis – in an interview in 1955]

In the nineteenth century the city was filled with music.  There were brass bands, string orchestras, amateur symphonies, and wandering street singers.  Dozens of little orchestras played for the endless social gatherings in the Vieux Carre.  Rougher bands played in the dance halls near the river for the longshoremen and the men off the ships.  With the social life, the long summers, and the dozens of resorts there was probably more music in New Orleans than in any city in the country.  The music does not seem to have been entirely distinctive.  The musicians relied on standard orchestrations from the New York publishing houses.  The French community carries on some of the French musical tradition, centered around its French Opera House, but unlike the bitter, resentful Acadians west of the city who rejected any non-French culture, the Vieux Carre was as much concerned with being “cultured” as it was with being simply French.
MusicofNewOrleans_Page_05_web

In the last years of the century and until about the time of the first World War the city was troubled with far reaching changes in social structure.  Because of an influx of new families there was for several years an overcrowded tenement condition in some of the poorer Negro neighborhoods, on the upriver side of Canal Street, the Creoles of Color – French speaking mixed bloods – were included in the general restrictions of legislated segregation, and a large district near the downtown business district was opened for prostitution and gambling.  Each of these factors contributed to the development of a local orchestral dance style that was to be the heart of American jazz music. …

The aim of this group of recordings – done in the city in the seven years between 1951 and 1958 – was to find and preserve as much of the cities musical tradition as possible.  The music that somehow captured some of this relaxed, romantic past.  Here is the music of the brass bands, the dance halls, Mardi Gras, and the music of the streets themselves.  The music of shoe shine boys, vegetable criers, guitar players, and street evangelists.  The music that was recorded was as much as possible the distinctive music of the city. …

Here in all it variety and glory is the music of New Orleans.

Sister Dora Alexander, a “colorful street evangelist who makes a meager living singing on the streets of Vieux Carre”, sings Times Done Changed (from Smithsonian Folkways):

 

What Paths, What Journeys: Selected Poems of Samuel Charters

charterspoetryWe are deeply saddened by the passing of Samuel Charters, poet, novelist, biographer, translator of contemporary Swedish poets, and renowned scholar of the blues, jazz, and musical culture of the African diaspora.  Samuel Charters was a friend and generous, longtime donor to Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut.

For nearly 50 years, Samuel Charters discovered and documented African American music. Starting as a field recorder for Folkways Records in 1954, Samuel Charters served as recording director for Prestige and Vanguard Records, producer for Sonet Records and owner of Gazell Records. He published many books about the blues and musicians who played the blues.  His most recent biography, Songs of Sorrow (University Press of Mississippi, 2015), is the story of Lucy McKim Garrison, the woman who was the creative force behind the first collection of spirituals of American slaves, the 1867 volume Slave Songs of the United States.  Samuel Charters’ new book of poetry What Paths, What Journeys: New & Selected Poems, issued last month under the Portents imprint, is a selection from his lifetime, “hymning nature, family, friendship, travel and the stuff of life.”

In the field, Samuel often collaborated with his wife Ann, who is a writer, literary scholar, photographer and pianist in her own right. Their quest to document African American music took them to St. Louis, Memphis, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, the Caribbean and as far as Africa. In these places, the Charters tried to record music that they believed was going to be lost. Their efforts to preserve and share the songs that they heard on their travels culminated in a working archive, the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture, that provides researchers with a complete experience of African American vernacular music.

Encompassing literary manuscripts, personal papers, records of the independent record label and small press Portents, first editions by Harlem Renaissance writers, recordings of Harlem Renaissance performers, early poetry publications and manuscripts in the records of Oyez Press, and the the Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture, Mr. Charters’ extraordinary archive continues to expand and grow here at the Dodd Research Center.  The archive documents the calico of activities, affinities, interests and careers of Samuel Charters, prolific writer and poet, and endures as an invaluable resource for students and scholars for generations to come.

 

 

 

Geomorphology, Classical Mechanics, and Theories of Time: Reading the Manuscripts of Poet J. H. Prynne

by Ed Luker

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Envelope of letter from Prynne to Olson.

The name J. H. Prynne signifies a strange clash of scale in the collective imagination of readers of British poetry. He is monumental enough to be canonized in The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (ed. Dominic Head), and has been described by the critic Peter Ackroyd as “without doubt the most formidable and accomplished poet in England today”. However, side glances at the mention of Prynne’s name in most of the broadsheet press in the UK would lead one to believe that he was a minor figure, something of a mandarin, and -like all entities too small to take care of themselves- suffering from a hermetic self-diminution.

It would be much more apt to state that whilst many readers of poetry are in some sense familiar with a certain received idea of his work, it is much less likely that those familiarities connote careful engagement. This is in part due to his lack of inclusion within university reading lists (perhaps concomitantly with the daunting thickness of the yellow brick – the collected works), but also due to the truism that his poetry forces a huge strain on readers’ habituated patterns of verse cognition. A recent essay on a late Prynne collection, Acrylic Tips, by the poet Timothy Thornton published online by Hix Eros describes a frustration of such disruptions, particularly the inability of image clusters to remain continuous:

The image tests the pattern, coaxes from us an instinct of its threshold, but then breaks it or crosses it or falls short, perhaps as a glint beginning the generation of a whole new topology or network; or perhaps merely as an unilluminating collision, the image simply glancing off and coming to seem to us inexplicable, redundant, even objectionable.

If one were to consider the ludicrous metaphor that each of Prynne’s books resembles a climbing wall, the attempt to transition from one book to the next would leave the climber with the bolt-on under hand disappearing from grip whilst the wall itself shifts in rotation. My own research is currently attempting to cling on to the relatively early under-hang at the base of Prynne’s oeuvre between The White Stones and Brass.

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Jeremy Prynne signing off a letter to Ed Dorn.

The former of which was written across the mid to late sixties and published in 1969, the latter was published in 1971. The transition between these two books is arguably the largest shift in Prynne’s oeuvre due to the move away from a style in The White Stones that holds a certain familiarity for readers familiar with the poetry of Charles Olson and Ed Dorn. That shift into Brass was a shift into a voice that was distinctively Prynne’s own, divesting itself of a lyric sentimentality and excoriating a form ambition based on the figure of The Poet.

Although published over forty years ago, what makes the task of writing about The White Stones and Brass so equally exciting and daunting is that it feels like the development of Prynne criticism is still in a nascent stage. The number of single author studies on his work barely amounts to a handful. The amount of information on his work by the author is also acutely scant. Thus, the archives at the Dodd Center contain a set of valuable commodities in his letters to Olson and Dorn.

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Photocopied image in letter to Charles Olson from Prynne.

Exhibiting the reflections and considerations of a young poet in a formative stage of his artistic career, the first thing to note about the letters is that they helped to confirm certain suspicions. The letters to Olson make it clear that Prynne was a ravenous and catholic reader. They contain references to the etymology of English place names, continental phenomenology, definitional Anglo-American analytic philosophy, a host of work on North European folklore, Christian theology, an anthropology of shamanism, as well as collations of classical mechanics, theories of time, and geomorphology. Many of the letters appear to be responses to Olson’s requests for information about matters for Olson’s poetry, such as economic history of shipping and trade between New England and the old world.

Olson wished to know more about the most significant traders in Gloucester, presumably for his Maximus poems. I had not known that Prynne worked as an informal researcher for Olson in such a close manner. Reading the letters really highlighted how in awe of Olson the British poet was, confirming that the poem ‘Lashed To The Mast’, which opens “Thus you have everything, at this | moment, that I could ever | command” was written in direct address to Olson, sent to him before it was ever published elsewhere.

To give a more concrete example of how the archives assisted my project, one thing I had been pondering over for a while was what the word ‘love’ might mean within The White Stones. To pick out one particular example, first of all from ‘Song in Sight of the World:

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The poetic voice is resolute to express its message, “I will tell | you”, yet the separation of the first person pronoun from the ‘you’ is maintained alongside the inability of the deictic ‘this’ to be conjoined with ‘love’. Consequently ‘love’, the message the poetic voice wills to commit to, is still suspended from the ‘I’. This threefold separation is grounded in the overall separation from ‘the world’ hanging suspended, a satellite in stasis lingering at the end. I had a feeling that this outline of ‘love’ was not romantic or erotic but something more akin to a Christian agape. I had been reading the writings of the theologian Paul Tillich and felt that there was a tangible similarity between his arguments about the separation from the ‘Ground of Being’ to certain arguments within The White Stones.  For example in his sermon, later republished in The Shaking of the Foundations, ‘You are accepted’ Tillich writes:

He who is able to love himself is able to love others also; he who has learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others. But the depth of our separation lies in just the fact that we are not capable of a great and merciful divine love towards ourselves. On the contrary, in each of us there is an instinct of self-destruction, which is as strong as our instinct of self-preservation. In our tendency to abuse and destroy others, there is an open or hidden tendency to abuse and to destroy ourselves.

 

Image from letter from Prynne to Ed Dorn.

Image from letter from Prynne to Ed Dorn.

Whilst the separation of love from the world as a ‘Ground of Being’ mirrors that in operation in ‘Song in Sight of the World’, it also reminds me of Prynne’s argument about desire and compulsion in ‘Star Damage at Home’, that “we must have the damage by which | the stars burn in their courses”, and also, with Christological implications “there should be | torture in our midst”. What is also significant about comparing Tillich to Prynne is that it made me think of an apparent paradox in Prynne’s conception of alienation in his poetry of the sixties. On the one hand in ‘Questions for the Time Being’ Prynne writes “when almost everything is exactly that, the | mirror of a would-be alien who won’t see how | much he is at home”, this seems like a very dismissive argument about self-estrangement. On the other hand poems in The White Stones insist that “we live here and must mean it, the last person we are”, but what this nagging insistence implies is that the ‘we’ who currently lives here does not mean it and lives ‘here’ in ignorance of that fact. The ‘we’ is not at home in its home.

Whilst I had been milling over these considerations before I arrived at the Dodd Research Center, one thing I was pleasingly surprised to uncover from looking at Prynne’s letters to Ed Dorn was that he had read Paul Tillich. In the first box of materials to Dorn there is an undated document that appears to be a reading list entitled ‘Some Works Containing Discussions Of Scientific And Christian Time, History, And Causal Explanation’. Although one cannot be certain of the compiler, it contains many typographical features that share a resemblance to the typed materials that were sent to Olson by Prynne in the mid sixties. Amongst the list there are four texts listed by Tillich. The extent to which Tillich was an influence on Prynne’s thinking is something I will have to consider further, especially considering the sheer breadth of materials Prynne was reading at the time.

Newspaper cuttings sent from Prynne to Dorn.

Newspaper cuttings sent from Prynne to Dorn.

The Archives at the Dodd Center have enabled me to uncover what Prynne was reading within identifiable time frames. Most of the discoveries of how that reading relates to the poems are still to come. For the last few days I have been reading ‘Cosmogonies of our Fathers: Some Theories of the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Centuries’, by Katharine Brownell Collier, recommended to Olson in a letter dated 7th January 1964. This has lead me to consider a noun phrase I had previously overlooked in ‘Star Damage at Home’,  “That some star | not included in the middle heavens should | pine in earth”. I had previously failed to notice that ‘middle heavens’ would indicate a transition within Christian cosmology from the influence of pre-Christian cosmology (which here may well be of Babylonian origin, or so A. Y. Collins argues in her book Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism) that trouble our modern idea of there being merely a heaven and an earth. What the significance of a middle heaven might mean for the rest of the poem, or what the relation of importations of various mixed cosmologies means as a whole is work still to be uncovered.

Ed Luker is a PhD candidate in English Literature at University of Northumbria.  He was awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research on the poets J. H. Prynne, Charles Olson and Ed Dorn whose papers reside in the Archives. 

 

 

We are the Armenians

Currently being installed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Archives & Special Collection’s Gallery, an exhibit We are the Armenians. A two month community exhibition celebrating the history, strength, vibrancy, and accomplishments of New England’s Armenian American community.  Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the exhibition will showcase artifacts, photographs & family heirlooms belonging to members of Connecticut’s Armenian community and the Armenian Museum of America (Watertown, MA).

We are the Armenians, an exhibition sponsored by UConn Global Affairs, is part of the 2015 Norian Armenian Community Exhibition Project.  This project aims to provide a forum for individuals from the Armenian American community throughout Connecticut and the greater New England region to record, share, and preserve their stories, and in so doing, to contribute to the understanding of themes relating to immigration, cultural diversity, and identity relevant to the Armenian diaspora.  The historical foundation of this outreach program was established with the Norian Armenian Oral History Project, directed by Bruce Stave and Sondra Astor Stave, which encompasses twenty interviews, archived in the Connecticut Oral History Collection in UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Exhibition Schedule

March 12th - May 15th, 2015; 9am-5pm, M-F

Location: Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Storrs CT

 

Annual Alice K. Norian Lecture, March 24th, 2015; 6:00pm-8:15pm

“Remembering Armenia: A Journey through Historical Fiction & Memoir”

Author Chris Bohjalian and Professor Armen T. Marsoobian

Location: Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Storrs CT

Man, Woman, Machine: Gender, Automation, and Created Beings – Children’s Literature

Photo 1From Pinocchio to The Velveteen Rabbit, tales of creation and animation have long captured the childhood imagination. I have spent several days in the reading room exploring the treatment of created beings in children’s literature. These stories differ in their narrative style, subject matter, and characters, but nonetheless offer fascinating commentary on artificiality and personhood.

I have selected seven illustrations from the children’s literature collection that visually bring these animated characters to life. Each one highlights the unique ways in which authors treat toys, dolls, cyborgs, and automata throughout the ages.

Intern Giorgina Paiella is an undergraduate student majoring in English and minoring in philosophy and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. In her new blog series, “Man, Woman, Machine: Gender, Automation, and Created Beings,” she will explore treatments of created and automated beings in archival materials from Archives and Special Collections.

 

 

The Altered Book: Now on Display

Altering a book page is a daunting concept; reconstructing and altering an entire book is a formidable test.  Even when using cast-off books that are about to be recycled, one is faced with the unnerving sensation of involvement in a destructive rather than a creative act.  Through thoughtfully considered and concentrated efforts, repetitive actions such as folding, cutting, scoring, curling, punching, incising, and shredding have altered the book’s original function as an object of information and have transformed it into something new.  (Deborah Dancy)

books1Altered books created by students in Professor Deborah Dancy’s first year studio foundation class will be on display from March 2 to March 20 in the Reading Room lobby of Archives and Special Collections.  Come in and allow these altered books to lead you in your own consideration of the form and function of the modern book.

The breadth and variety of works speak to the diversity of interpretations that can be made books2about the book as an object of information and of art.  Students draw inspiration from nature – cascading waterfalls, leaves, feathers, flowers, and rolling seas – as well as from the clean lines of geometry and the rhythm of repetitive shapes.

Some of the students cut into the books, suggesting, perhaps, that to understand the book as information and as art one must immerse oneself into the very substance of the book.   books3Other students chose to alter the books so that they expanded beyondtheir original physical boundaries, transforming the printed page into a three-dimensional sculpture.

- Lauren Silverio

Lauren Silverio is an English and Psychology major and student employee in Archives and Special Collections.books4