Friday, July 30, 2021

Bookplates in the Atmosphere

Image of Amelia Earhart's bookplateHere at Rauner, we have an interesting collection of various famous people's bookplates, which they would paste into the inside covers of their books to indicate that any particular volume belonged to them. The focus of the collection is primarily American and British personalities.⁠

Recently, we discovered this very plain but very cool bookplate that belonged to Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. This exciting find seemed particularly relevant given the recent trip into space by another aviation pioneer, Wally Funk.⁠

To explore the Bookplates collection, explore the finding aid for Iconography 1733 and then come to Rauner and ask to see whichever fascinating paste-in of a famous person that you'd like.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Very Person of Death

the complete text of "Apostrophe to Death"One of the most exciting aspects of our collections is the way that Dartmouth students interpret primary sources to create new ideas within the context of the classroom. On Tuesdays this summer, we will publish posts that were originally written by students in Michael Chaney's Literary History survey course during the Winter 2021 term. Each student essay comparatively examines two poems, one from the Dartmouth student newspaper and the other by a canonical American or British author. Today's post compares "The Masque of the Red Death," by Edgar Allen Poe, with "Apostrophe To Death, On His Removal of an Intimate Friend," published in the student newspaper The Dartmouth.

In Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death” and the poem “Apostrophe To Death,” we see personified depictions of death. Both demonstrate our difficulties discussing death as anything but a tangible being on which we can place blame.

In Poe’s story, thousands of people who believe they are free of a deadly pestilence, the red death, come together for a party hosted by Price Prostero. Their surprise at the Red Death’s physical arrival as a party guest accompanies feelings of terror and ultimately, a massacre of all attendants. On the other hand, “Apostrophe to Death” tells the story of just one loss, not a thousand-person catastrophe. The speaker describes death as a personified being which comes to take human life, an act described as “thy dreadful work.”

Poe’s story demonstrates the difficulty humans have with comprehending death in the abstract form. Poe characterizes the Red Death as a guest who enters the party towards the middle of the story. However, the line “and now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death,” appears in the culminating paragraph. In order to rationalize how death came unexpectedly, it is compared to “a thief in the night”; while thieves are elusive, they still are beings, easier to blame than the unseen wind.

When the Red Death overtakes the party and kills all the guests in the end, “the flames of the tripods expired.” At the time, ‘tripod’ could mean a three legged vessel, but it could also represent the “tripod of life,” as in “The heart, lungs, and brain constitute … the tripod of life.” The heart, lungs, and brain are all very scientific aspects of life. Death merely occurs when one or more of these pillars stops working. Still, Poe decides to animate death as a tangible human rather than as a termination of a heartbeat etc.
In the poem, the personified being of death is also unexpected yet tangible. One line addresses death directly by saying “But thou didst enter.” Even if death was unexpected, it physically entered the dying person’s body, like a thief entering a building. While there is no explicit mention of theft in the poem, one line describes the dead loved one as someone “whose voice is hush’d in death,” as if their voice was stolen. Again, it is important to note that something perceivable such as voice was stolen rather than a heartbeat.

While death in Poe’s story functions to express how thousands of people can all die in an instant, in a massacre, death acts as an outlet for anger in the poem. Both demonstrate our instinctual desire to place blame on some being in order to project our emotions of terror and pain.

Written by Sabrina Eager '23

Passage A:
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
(Edgar Allen Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”)

Passage B:
For the pale cheek assur’d thy task begun,
And friends, soft slumb’ring, could not gather there,
Before, alas, thy dreadful work is done,
And that lov’d one, whose voice is hush’d in death,
Was doom’d all lonely to resign her breath.
(“Apostrophe to Death, On his Removal of an Intimate Friend,” The Dartmouth Vol. 1)

Friday, July 23, 2021

Americans on Everest

college-era headshot of John BreitenbachDartmouth College has long had a reputation for outdoor sports and recreation. The foundation of the Dartmouth Outing Club by Fred Harris '11 was embraced by many students and became a strong draw for young men who wanted a more active college experience. John Breitenbach '57 was one of those men who were attracted by Dartmouth's emphasis on the outdoors. After he graduated, he opened a skiing and mountaineering equipment shop in Jackson, Wyoming.⁠

In 1963, Breitenbach was a member of the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest, along with two other Dartmouth alums, Barry Corbet '58 and Barry Bishop '53. Tragically, Breitenbach died on Khumbu Glacier at the foot of the mountain when a serac, or massive block of ice, unexpectedly collapsed on top of him.⁠ The leader of the team, Norman Dyhrenfurth, called a meeting of the rest of the members to discuss the loss of Breitenbach, let everyone speak in response to the tragedy, and see if people wanted to continue. The team ultimately decided to continue, resulting in a successful summiting by numerous members of the party. In addition, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein completed the first traverse of Everest by ascending via the West Ridge instead of the South Col route (which had been used by the 1953 British expedition).

To learn more about John Breitenbach, member of the class of 1957, come to Rauner and ask to see his Alumni File.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Frankenstein and False Flowers

"Falsity" poem from the Dartmouth student newspaperOne of the most exciting aspects of our collections is the way that Dartmouth students engage with them to create new ideas within the context of the classroom. On Tuesdays this summer, we will publish posts that were originally written by students in Michael Chaney's Literary History survey course during the Winter 2021 term. Each student essay comparatively examines two poems, one from the Dartmouth student newspaper and the other by a canonical American or British author.

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and the poem “Falsity,” from The Dartmouth’s archives, do not seem to be linked at first glance. Further analysis reveals many thematic similarities between the two texts. I was drawn immediately to the line from the poem: “’Twas an emblem of youth in its earliest hour.” Initially a veneration of youth, the poem turns into a darkly cautionary tale about youth’s betrayal. A young flower is quickly killed by a blighted leaf, just as a young Frankenstein meets his end at the hand of his own blighted creation. The young Frankenstein creates his monster, a pursuit that was fueled by youthful pride and ultimately ends in betrayal.

In the poem, as in the novel, the question of who is doing the betraying is a rather murky one. Does the “sweet blushing” flower deserve the blighted leaf for its pride, or is the leaf itself merely an arbitrary traitor? By the end of Shelley’s novel, the reader certainly feels that Frankenstein deserves punishment for his sinful pride. Throughout much of the novel, Frankenstein feels betrayed by both himself and his creation. The doubling of Frankenstein and the monster mirrors that of the flower and the blighted leaf in the poem: proud beauty marred by something dark and ugly. The flower, which the poet deemed “too pure and too holy to die,” also reminded me of Elizabeth. Frankenstein’s oft-patronizing way of referring to Elizabeth made her seem at times like an inanimate object, with all the agency of a flower. Like the blighted leaf betrays the flower, Frankenstein betrays Elizabeth—over and over again—by lying to her and ultimately leading her to her death.

By denying Elizabeth agency of her own, Shelley created a character whose most relevant act is a passive one—being betrayed by Frankenstein and killed by Frankenstein’s monster. The poem, just like “Frankenstein,” can be viewed as a love story, just as it can be viewed as a doubling. The leaf—“beautiful” at first, but quickly stricken with blight—performs the same function as both Frankenstein’s monster and Elizabeth in the novel. The monster, so miraculous and beautiful at first, quickly becomes a “dæmon”. Elizabeth, lovely and fresh in the beginning of the novel, is aged by the tragedy Frankenstein inflicts upon her. Both serve as doubles— as mirrors—for Frankenstein. “Blight came at last like the hand of the slayer/’Till it sickened untimely and perished with grief,” indeed.

Written by Nicole Sellew '21

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Art of Field Journaling

A drawing by Stefansson of the arm and hand tattoos of an Inuit personNext week we will host our first on-site class at Rauner Special Collections Library since March of 2020. As you can imagine, we are so excited to have students back in our space exploring our collections in an up close and personal sort of way. The class is on Social Ecological Systems and is taught by Flora Krivak-Tetley from the Environmental Studies Program. Why are they coming to Rauner, you might be wondering? Well, the students will be designing and creating their own specialized field journals next week and we happen to have a wide variety of scientific journals, diaries, albums, log books, and other ways of recording data. We hope that, as the students examine these documents, they'll find inspiration and insight when it comes time to shape their own particular means of recording observations and discoveries.

One of the journals that we will show the students is a diary created by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Stefansson was a Canadian explorer born to Icelandic immigrants in 1879. After numerous Arctic expeditions, he became a renowned lecturer and advocate for the Arctic. Stefansson was a lecturer at Dartmouth from 1947 until his death in 1962. This volume is one of his field journals from the Stefansson-Anderson Expedition (1908-1912), which includes his anthropological observations of Inuit people (which he and others called the “Kogmallick” during this period of exploration). Of particular interest are Stefansson’s drawings of Inuit tattoos and his attempts to interpret their meaning.

To see Stefansson's diary, come to Rauner and ask for MSS-98, Box 3.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

“Stanzas for Music” and “The Student’s Portfolio”

The text of The Student's Portfolio from the Dartmouth student newspaperOne of the most exciting aspects of our collections is the way that Dartmouth students engage with them to create new ideas within the context of the classroom. On Tuesdays this summer, we will publish posts that were originally written by students in Michael Chaney's Literary History survey course during the Winter 2021 term. Each student essay comparatively examines two poems, one from the Dartmouth student newspaper and the other by a canonical American or British author:

Lord Byron’s "Stanzas for Music" (reproduced below) is a sensually emotive account of an experience of a piece of music that capitalizes on natural imagery to convey the bodily effects a work of art induces. This particular poem is most closely related to a state of dreaming– Byron’s stream of consciousness produces an artful depiction of one’s experience of a piece of work that was clearly meant to exist in the dream space from which it was originally birthed.

This analysis will be comparing Byron’s poem with an original work originally published in The Dartmouth in 1839-1840, titled "The Student’s Portfolio". "Portfolio" weaves through the intertwining nature of a student's collection of written work, with detail paid towards the emotional ups and downs of a creation. In this way, the two poems relate to each other: they find common ground within the visceral nature of artful creation. In "Stanzas", the musical piece that is being described as "whose breast is gently heaving, the swell of Summer’s ocean" is done an injustice by the author attempting to breathe it into existence as poetic prose. As such, the existence of creative art has value beyond an articulation of poetic prose, such as in an illusory dream state.

Through this train of thought, I will analyze "The Student’s Portfolio" through the concept of a "dream". The OED defines a dream as "a series of images, thoughts, and emotions, often with a story-like quality; Something imagined or invented; a false idea or belief; an illusion, a delusion". The entirety of "Stanzas for Music" feels like a dream: the poem creates an illusion of an abstract world where the "waves lie still and gleaming" and the "midnight moon is weaving" (Byron). Within this world, The dream-state works to value the artistic work beyond the page and simultaneously engage the body within an illusion of experience that is produced by the creative work.

"The Student’s Portfolio" tries to fight the dream state by pulling highly emotive experiences down from their existence in the author's consciousness down onto the paper, while "Stanzas" falls into its bodily response easily, expanding upon natural imagery originally existing within a dream state. "Portfolio" chronicles an author’s thought process through its description of a portfolio, engrossed in both despair and hope within the writing experience. The poem moves from a looser dream state into a grounded release of written work from the author's mind to the page: "Loose thoughts, long pent in sluggish brain... The muse had waked, t'inspire the theme" (O.P.Q). These lines are representations of unstructured thought, until the "thoughts break out in vengeful rage / and frenzy dashes o’er the page, / Till calmed, the passions sink to rest" (O.P.Q). This chronicling of the writing process capitalizes on the illusory and story-like quality of creative writing, however "Portfolio" utilizes the contributions of the muse and sends her away, unlike "Stanzas", which releases itself into the dream state of the muse herself.

Written by Susannah Laster, class of 2022

"Stanzas for Music" by George Gordon, Lord Byron

There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmed ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming:
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving,
As an infant's asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Pope's Celebrity Chef

An image from Scappi's cookbook of a rotisserie deviceAs we head into summer, we are beginning to dream about hot dogs, corn on the cob, and other seasonal favorites. Although we personally are satisfied with our own backyard cooking arrangements, this 16th-century cooking contraption might potentially breed serious grill envy among some outdoor barbecue enthusiasts.⁠

This mechanical marvel is one of many kitchen gadgets pictured in the 1596 edition of Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera dell'Arte del Cucinare. Scappi was the first true international celebrity chef, a la Julia Childs or Anthony Bourdain. He cooked for several popes and numerous bishops, but he truly rose to fame in 1570 when his cookbook with over a thousand Renaissance recipes was published to great acclaim. One of his pronouncements that was likely very well received by his local audience was that Parmesan is the greatest of all cheeses.

We recently acquired this volume for use in the classroom at the request of two of our Italian Department faculty members; we're so excited at the prospect of having students back on site, hopefully sooner rather than later!⁠ To take a look at some of the other great images in this book, come to Rauner and ask for Rare TX711 .S283 1596.