Friday, October 29, 2021

Delightfully Dreadful

To start our Halloween weekend off right, we're taking a look at Varney the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood, an early example of European vampire literature in a deliciously pulpy format. Variously attributed to James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Peckett Prest, Varney was published as a series of cheaply printed pamphlets from 1845 to 1847. This "penny dreadful" style of printing was inexpensive, popular, and typically followed sensational stories of mystery, romance, and horror.

Sir Francis Varney, our titular vampire, comes about 40 years after Polidori's Lord Ruthven and about 50 years before Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. The tropes of vampire stories were far from established as this point, and so Varney starts quite a few of his own. Fangs, superhuman strength, and hypnotism are all introduced to the literature here. Beyond his supernatural skillset, he's also considered the first "sympathetic" vampire, a trait that more modern authors like Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, and Stephanie Meyer would later take and run with. He finds himself morally tortured to the point that by the story's end (spoiler alert), he throws himself into Mount Vesuvius. That said, Varney's conflicted nature doesn't stop him from murdering his way through nearly 900 pages of lurid prose.

To see this landmark work of horror fiction, skulk over to Special Collections and ask for Rainone Penny Dreadfuls PR3991.A1 V27 1845.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Gandhi's Wheel of Fortune

cover of Gandhi's 1921 publication "The Wheel of Fortune."Tomorrow marks what would have been Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi's 152nd birthday. In India, October 2nd is called "Gandhi Jayanti" and is one of the country's three national holidays. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly established the date as the International Day of Non-Violence. For most of the world, Gandhi's name has become synonymous with a philosophy of non-violent resistance and, in most popular images of him, he is inevitably clad in nothing but a humble loincloth, shawl, and eyeglasses.

However, for those of us who were born decades after his assassination in 1948, it may come as a surprise to know that Gandhi did not openly adopt this iconic wardrobe until he was 52 years of age. He also had lived half of his life abroad in both England and South Africa before returning to his homeland at the age of 45. He had gained a reputation among his countryman as a nationalist and community organizer because of his advocacy for South Africa's Indian population. Soon after his return, Gandhi assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress and immediately began to challenge British rule.

Gandhi adopted the loincloth and shawl as a means of connecting with Indians living in poverty; the clothing was woven from yarn made on a traditional Indian spinning wheel, called a charkha. The spinning wheel became central to Gandhi's struggle for national emancipation as a symbol of self-sufficiency as well as a practical method by which to boycott British goods and create a sense of national identity. He published a book titled "The Wheel of Fortune" in 1922 that outlined this philosophy by encouraging Indian people to spin their own clothing as a means of protest. Fittingly, the book is bound in Khadi, the cloth produced by traditional Indian spinning and weaving.

To see a rare first edition of this book, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare Book HC435 .G3.

Friday, September 17, 2021

New Exhibit at Rauner: "Illustrating 'Once Upon A Time'"

We are delighted to announce the first installation of an exhibit in the Class of 1965 Galleries at Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall in over a year. As of this past Monday, “Illustrating ‘Once Upon A Time’," an exhibit curated by Scout Noffke, will be on display through December 3rd. Unfortunately, because of current college COVID policy regarding building access, the on-site exhibit is accessible only to current Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff. However, the exhibit also has an engaging digital version that anyone can access online via this link

Dartmouth Library’s Special Collections hold many illustrated books that highlight the artistic lineage of fairy tales. Three hundred years of illustration demonstrate not just the way artists represented the printed word, but the development of certain thematic trends within the stories. Like folk and fairy tales themselves, published works of art are pieces in conversation with each other. Artists know and draw inspiration from one another, and by looking at multiple iterations of the same or similar stories, one begins to see what scholar Elizabeth Newton describes as “networks of thought.”

This exhibit traces those networks in five well-known European fairy tales from Rauner Library’s collections. Over time, the illustrations for each story reveal through-lines of thought that either transform as they move from one artist to the next or repeat a visual theme again and again, adding to an artistic legacy by way of repetition and response.Both the on-site and online versions of this exhibit were curated by Scout Noffke, Rauner Special Collections Library’s Reference and Administrative Specialist. The on-site exhibit was installed by Deborah Howe and Lizzie Curran.

*Please note that the on-site exhibit is accessible only to current Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff.*

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Decade Undercover as a Communist

Carol Foster's subpoena to the Committee on Un-American Activities
At a Cub Scout meeting in 1945, suburban New Hampshire housewife Carol Foster asked another parent, an FBI agent, “Don’t you have a job in the FBI for someone like me?” So began her thirteen-year career as a counterspy for the FBI, undercover in the Communist Party in New Hampshire, which only ended in 1958 when the House Un-American Activities Committee called her to testify about what she had learned. Foster kept a large scrapbook with mostly clippings of newspapers mentioning her, which include transcripts of the hearing where she appeared.

Front page story about Foster in the Nashua TelegraphReading through these news articles, it’s easy to understand how normalized the “Red Scare” mindset was at the time. Even Foster was asked whether she had any “sympathy with the Communist ideology,” and when she had finished testifying, Congressman Bernard Kearney advised her to ignore the insults of people he dismissed as “Fifth Amendment Americans”—referring to the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, which suspected communists relied on in these hearings. This attitude did not bother Foster, though; she believed the FBI had been “sticking to constitutional methods,” and she had no problem with encouraging civilians to call the FBI to report “anything which might seem subversive.” While she felt guilty about revealing people’s personal information herself, she also felt that it was “bigger than [her].”

Part of a newspaper clipping with a transcript of Foster's hearing
It is also apparent in Foster’s scrapbook how much her gender influenced news coverage of the events. Although Foster was celebrated as a hero, headlines pigeonholed her as a “mother,” a “housewife,” and even “pretty” before anything else. When the papers did mention her life outside her FBI career and family, they revealed that she had a home photography studio, and that she enjoyed skiing, hunting, fishing, and flying. Somehow, Foster still found the time to carry out what she felt was her patriotic duty, as a secret from everyone but her husband, for over a decade.

To see Foster’s scrapbook (or her impressive collection of communist publications), come to Rauner and ask for MS-1441.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Cloudy Understanding

Full text of "Cloud Shimmerings"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 examines the poems “Cloud Shimmerings,” from Volume One of The Dartmouth, and Percy Shelley’s “The Cloud” and argues that these poems qualify the impact that nature can have upon humanity since the truth of humanity is its mortality, which is a state to which nature can never relate.

The second stanza of “Cloud Shimmerings” identifies within nature “A truthful beauty” which is encapsulated so fully within each natural entity that “e’en the mists earth’s bosom gives to air,/… May give to stooping thoughts a loftier flight/... To glean the choicest gems that truth’s high throne bedight.” (J. 10, 12, 16, 18). The human speaker thus claims that the natural beauty embedded within a cloud, when witnessed by a human, allows the cloud to elevate the otherwise subservient human introspections to the extent that the human might be allowed to witness real truth (“stooping, v.1”). The idealistic pastoral tone of the poem insinuates that such an evolution in knowledge “Tis joy” to experience, as it is a separation from “the din of human toil and strife” to the extent that understanding natural truth serves to sever the speaker from the limitations of human existence (J. 1, 2).

The truth that the human is granted understanding of can be contemplated through the application of “The Cloud.” The semi-omniscient speaker of the cloud grants readers first-hand access to the truths inherent in nature which appear to be two-fold. Until the closing stanza, the poem emphasizes the myriad symbiotic relationships connecting the cloud to all other elements of nature. It is not until the last stanza that the speaker seems to allude to any interaction it might have with humanity. The cloud defines itself in the last stanza, emphasizing its state of immortality through lines 74 and 80 : “I change, but I cannot die/… I silently laugh at my own cenotaph”(Shelley). The cloud’s laughter at the cenotaph, intended to serve as a physical memorial to the dead, emphasizes the futility of human monuments attempting to be compared to the truth of natural immortality (“cenotaph, n.”).

This truth may be viewed as a characteristic transitively shared by all the elements in nature but noticeably absent in humanity, as is insinuated through the lack of connection to humanity within the poem itself. As such, “The Cloud” posits that the truths of natural beauty are natural immorality, and in turn, human mortality. The divine sensation of illumination that the speaker in “Cloud Shimmerings” claims to experience is thus qualified by the essence of the truths they come to bear witness to; as while the human is enabled to comprehend that they are mortal and nature is not, this cognizance does not truly separate them from the rest of humanity, as both they and their attempted literary memorializations are laughable in the eyes of nature.

Written by Zoe Marzi '22

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Agency of Death

Text of "Epitaph on a Sailor"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 are publishing 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 poems are "Lycidas" by John Milton and "Epitaph on a Sailor" published in the Dartmouth, the student newspaper, in the 1840s.

An analysis of “Epitaph on a Sailor” through the lens of natural immortality introduced by Milton’s “Lycidas” offers a new reading of the poem. While both works speak of death as a physical phenomenon, “Epitaph” conveys it as a final destination. The farmer is reduced to dust, and all who are dead reduce to sediment “beneath the land and sea” (Anonymous). “Epitaph” conveys multiple dualities – between land and sea, between “remain” and “contain,” between immortality and death. The “urn” represents a duality between earth and aquatics, as it can refer to a vessel “ used by various peoples…to preserve the ashes of the dead” (urn 1) while it can also mean “ an oviform pitcher or vessel for holding water” (urn 4.a). These binaries illuminate the distinctions between life and death as separate entities, suggesting immortality as an impossibility.

In contrast to the stationary description of deaths of the mariner and farmer in “Epitaph,” such as the depiction of dust in an urn or at the bottom of the ocean, Lycidas lives on as an individual through nature. “Lycidas is not dead” Milton says -- he elementally reappears as “in the forehead of the morning sky” and in “groves and other streams” (Milton). He lives on through the lamenting of nature. Milton’s lens of natural immortality provides a reading of “Epitaph” that places it in conversation with “Lycidas,” -- a means to express life beyond death.

Applying the immortal qualities of “Lycidas” illuminates the importance of the order of words in “Epitaph.” The last line, which reads “alike, beneath the land and sea,” suggests potential for the dead to live through earthly phenomena. This line also reverses the order of “mariner first, farmer second,” (the order in which they appear in the poem). Placing the land before the sea suggests concrete life after death. It favors the stable land of the farmer over ethereal vastness of the ocean. Milton’s lens also calls to attention the pattern of verbiage associated with each person. The mariner “remains,” while the farmer is “contained” -- the former being passive and the latter more active. “Remains” means “to continue to belong to a person” (remains 1.a), while “contains,” means “to restrain… to hinder (from an action) (contain 1a). The shift from passive to active verb suggests the Miltonic theme of death taking on more agency in “Epitaph.” There is more life to death, as suggested in “Lycidas,” when the hero collects not just as dust, but as sediment “sunk though he be beneath the wat'ry floor” (Milton). “Lycidas” provides a lens through which “Epitaph” can be read to have more of an immortal view as opposed to a reading which conveys death as absolute.

Written by Julia Robitaille '23


"Epitaph on a Sailor"

HERE rest in death a mariner’s remains—
That other urn a farmer’s dust contains:Thus Pluto’s dark dominions be Alike
beneath the land and sea.
(Published in the Dartmouth, Volume 2, 1840-1841)

"Lycidas", lines 165 – 177, or 10th stanza

Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the wat'ry floor;
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high
Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves;
Where, other groves and other streams along,
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song,
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
(Written by John Milton in 1637)

Friday, August 6, 2021

Repairing the (Ivory) Tower

Masthead of "Steepejack"
Progressive politics were in the air at Dartmouth in 1933. The new student run magazine Steeplejack declared its intentions with a logo showing a "steeplejack" repairing the recently erected Baker Tower next to a bold statement of purpose:

Steeplejack declares for a New Deal at Dartmouth College: a birth of opinion and literary creativity, a comprehension of the purposes of the college, an integration of undergraduate life with the activities and culture of the outside world.

We declare definite war upon pseudo-intellectualism, upon insincere writing and speech-making, upon undirected emotion and cinematic leadership.

Nice! They have aligned themselves with Roosevelt, they are taking on the theater of education, trying to engage outside the Dartmouth bubble, and giving it away for free to "do our part." Curiously, though, they seem to see nothing wrong with using the Baker weather vane...

Take a look at Dartmouth's version of progressive politics in 1933 by asking for DC History LH1 .D3S8.