Friday, May 24, 2013

Introducing Edna St. Vincent Millay

Introducing a speaker is always tricky. You want to be witty and urbane, but at the same time honor the seriousness of the moment. All of the attention must be deflected to the honored guest, but if you give a bad introduction, everyone will remember. It is trickier still if you are introducing a great poet known for her attentive use of language while you yourself are famous for your way with words.

Among our small collection of the Papers of Aldous Huxley, is a heavily annotated, undated, draft of an introduction that Huxley once gave for Edna St. Vincent Millay. The draft shows Huxley's struggles to get the tone just right--making small changes like substituting "impetuous current" for "onrush" and revamping entire sentences then rejecting them altogether. His final version captures the force of Milley's poetry and then summons her to the stage:
Like the Elizabethans, she seems constantly on the verge of being swept off her feet by the impetuous current of her own eloquence; but just as it seems inevitable that she should fall, the headlong movement is miraculously transformed before your eyes into a figure of the Dance, into some beautiful gesture, entirely unexpected and novel, and entirely satisfying.

The same could be said for Huxley's introduction--a beautiful work in itself.  Come read it and see all of his changes by asking for MS 286, Box 1.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ordinary Memorabilia

The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held in Paris in the spring and summer of 1937. The Peace Pavilion was to be the culminating point of the exhibition and was dedicated to the "support of propaganda in favour of Peace." However, the Peace Pavilion's impact was overshadowed by the physical juxtaposition of the Nazi and Soviet pavilions. Situated directly across from one another, the two pavilions displayed each country's respective views on nationalism and politics through architectural motifs and created a visual preview of the coming world conflict.

There is little mention of these issues in our small collection of materials on the Expo. Instead, we have Churhill Lathrop's Carte de L├ęgitimation and a handful of maps, pamphlets, postcards, and other ephemera. See the sights of Paris as featured on a folding guide to the Paris Metro. Dine on traditional British food at the British pavilion (though why one would when there were so many other options remains an open question). Travel to other parts of France on the "railway of the sea." All the usual things that the ordinary visitor would need during his or her visit to the continent.

Interestingly enough, though Lathrop was an Art History professor at Dartmouth, no mention is made of Picasso's Guernica which was exhibited for the first time in the Spanish pavilion at the Exposition.

Ask for MS-1015. A guide to the collection is available.